Recovering My Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion

Emily Grover teaches English literature and is finishing a doctoral dissertation about women novelists in the 18th century. She served a mission in Tokyo and married a man who served in Seoul. They have three kids and live in eastern Idaho, where they birdwatch, hike, and play a lot of Dr. Mario.

In the wake of the many maritime metaphors used during the recent General Conference—being “shipshape and Bristol fashion,” scuba-diving into scriptures, avoiding the gaping maws of sin-sharks, and so on—I find myself considering anew my own journey aboard “Old Ship Zion,” Brigham Young’s metaphor for the LDS church referenced by Elder Ballard last weekend.

These last few years have been both exciting and frustrating for me as the church has gone through (dare I say it?) sea changes in doctrine, policy, presentation, ideology, and culture and as I have become more aware of what I consider to be honest, urgent questions about the church’s past, present, and future. While some of these shifts have brought comfort and light, others have struck me like storms and have threatened, if not to throw me overboard, then at least to occasionally send me green-faced and stomach-achey to the sides of the ship. I feel like I’ve lost my sea legs.

I am not alone. In the past few years I have seen many friends from my youth, my mission, and my years at BYU–Idaho and Utah State leave the church as a result of shifts in their own lives or, in some cases, the failure of the church to shift quickly enough. Some leave quietly and some with great angst. I’ve had more than a few late night conversations with friends who want to stay, who want to believe, but who aren’t sure if there is a place in the church for them anymore.

We did not ask to feel seasick; it came in spite of (or maybe as a result of) our activity, our study, our prayers, our church and temple attendance, and the magnifying of our callings. We don’t want to leave. We just want our sea legs back.

Mine seem to come and go. For example, last week my newborn daughter was given a name and a blessing in my ward’s sacrament meeting. I knew that I would not be a part of the blessing or the circle of brothers surrounding my baby. Baby blessing circles have been a frequent topic of discussion among the MoFem blogs, and a recent post over at Feminist Mormon Women of Color includes a particularly heartbreaking anecdote about a newly converted sister who excitedly entered the blessing circle only to have her baby son pulled from her arms while someone escorted her back to her pew. Stories like this pain me. I don’t understand why women can’t bless and heal like they could in the early days of the church. I don’t know why I can’t stand next to my husband in a blessing circle, or why I can’t lay my hands with his upon the heads of our children when they are sick or entering a new year of school. My heart aches over this. I crave further knowledge regarding the spiritual gifts of women. I long to know more about my Heavenly Mother’s role in the Great Plan of Salvation. However, on the day of the blessing, I did not want this awareness of my limitations to keep me from appreciating the spirit of the moment. I did not want to feel seasick at my daughter’s blessing.

That day, my husband, my father-in-law, our bishop, and a select group of male friends from the ward encircled my baby daughter, left hands grasping shoulders, right hands holding her. The white of the long, lacy blessing gown and her elfin face peeping up at the lights were swallowed up by the wall of broad shoulders in dark suit coats. I knew that these men were not actively trying to leave me out. I knew that they had nothing against me. In fact, I knew that their intentions were solely this: to bless my child. In that moment, I saw these men stitched together like elegant hand embroidery, a chain of linking arms and cradling hands, with my child perched in the collective center. It was something beautiful. I felt calm and compassionate as my husband blessed our daughter to find her place in the world with the companionship of family, friends, and ward members. I bowed my head and joined my prayer with theirs.

My calmness in that moment did not, however, change my mind about wanting women to be involved in blessing circles. My craving for a better understanding of a woman’s eternal journey was not diminished. And yet, I still found myself capable of appreciating the love and goodwill already present in that circle of bowed heads and broad shoulders. And in that moment, I did not feel sick. I felt like part of my faith community.

This week is different. My Facebook feed is glutted with polarized responses to the recent General Conference: on the one hand, conference memes are ubiquitous to the point of becoming trite and status updates affect unparalleled enthusiasm for every conference talk; on the other, status updates bicker and criticize, nit-picking at all perceived weaknesses in the talks and the selected speakers. Despite how my feed implies that there are but two poles—unquestioning acceptance or critical outrage—I find myself agreeing with and being repulsed by both corners. I feel like I can’t publicly express gratitude for Elder Nelson’s or Elder Holland’s talks on women, because by doing so I might be seen as ignoring the fact that only 5 of the 39 speakers in this last conference were female (and 3 of those 5 spoke in the Women’s General Broadcast). I want to celebrate Elder Nelson’s call for women to “speak up and speak out,” but in the same breath I also want to argue that this message would have been more convincing had more women actually been invited to speak up and out during this conference.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I use this quotation to teach critical thinking to college freshmen, but it seems suitable to my testimony these days, too. Why shouldn’t I let myself see through multiple perspectives at once? Why shouldn’t I be bothered by the lack of a woman’s presence in baby blessing circles while still being able to appreciate the love and beauty already inherent in the current practice? Why shouldn’t I be disappointed that the three new apostles called are all white men born in Utah while still being able to love and sustain these good men in their overwhelmingly selfless and life-changing callings? Why shouldn’t I be inspired, uplifted, and elevated by the same conference talks that also bother me?

I find that, as I embrace all of my honest reactions regardless of how they contradict themselves, I do feel the ability to function—the same ability that I thought I had lost in the stormy seas of my changing testimony. Seeing the good, I realize, does not necessitate ignoring the bad.

The whole point of sea legs is that they let you stand on something unsure and moving. If we are to think of the church as a ship, we must also picture it tossing and moving with the water. And if we are going to stay aboard, we need to learn to keep our balance even when our two feet aren’t on the level.

Captain Ahab had holes bored into the deck of his ship so he could steady his whalebone pegleg in them. Maybe my sea legs are similar: one foot sure, one unsure. Ignoring the fact that Moby Dick’s nemesis is not an ideal role model (spoiler alert: he’s insane), I am enticed by the idea of manipulating the deck to assist the leg that has been wounded and repaired. At the risk of overworking this metaphor, I’d like to think of the way I manipulate the deck of Old Ship Zion as marking the places I know I can get a sure footing when I would otherwise toss about. I can anchor myself on what I know to be good, on what I believe could or should be true. I may not have a sure footing in the way gender equity looks in the church right now, but I do have a testimony of the power of community and the loving gestures of a father blessing his daughter. I may feel unsure about Joseph’s practice of plural marriages, but I can feel certain of my admiration for his honest questioning and the humility of an earnest prayer in a sacred grove. By anchoring one foot into the deck of Ship Zion, I can stay upright while the other continues to find the ever-shifting balance of the seas.

I’m starting to believe that the sure footing I thought I’d lost was an illusion. I’ve always had questions about how the gospel I intuit doesn’t quite match up with the church I experience, but in the past I saw the S.S. Zion as a cruise ship on which I wasn’t supposed to feel—or at least acknowledge—the movement of the waves. I’m done now pretending to have as much fun as everyone else, and cruise ships only deposit you back where you started anyway. I’d rather see the church as a Santa Maria or a Beagle: much smaller, the journey much more dangerous, but the discoveries ahead that much more important.

That more and more Saints are finding themselves feeling seasick on such a voyage is not, I think, a bad thing or a sign that the ship is in trouble. It’s instead a sign that we are becoming sailors instead of passengers, and I believe that we can get our sea legs back when we stop feeling that we have to drop the questions or the calls for change in order to continue to celebrate and reverence the gospel that we love and honor.

What will help many members desirous of staying in the boat in spite of their seasickness is if there is more room for discourse within the mainstream conversations of the church that would allow for questions, concerns, discomfort, pain, and frustrations. I think many members trying to hold on will find their legs miraculously strengthened beneath them just by being listened to and understood, by having their questions and concerns validated. In return, it would be good for those of us yearning for changes in the church to remove those filters that keep us from perceiving what is still already light and good and true before us. Our collective efforts could carve a larger space more conducive for minds that, like Fitzgerald’s, can work amid dissonance: a space that would encompass the fruitful, compromising middle grounds between the poles of dogmatic orthodoxy and full-on dissent. I would love to take my journey on a boat like that.

Comments

  1. I’ve always had some kind of an instinctive push back in my head when the idea of women being able to perform priesthood ordinances comes up but I’ve always ignored it for the cause of equality.

    Only just now did I realize that in this case equality is a zero sum game unlike most other cases. There are only a limited number of ordinances performed and every ordinance that my wife performs is an ordinance that I will never perform. And vice versa. I just happen to good the monopoly at the moment.

    So now at least I know that my instinctive aversion to the idea is selfishness and fear that I might be crowded out of performing my children’s ordinances.

  2. This may be one of the best articles I have ever read on this website. Thank you so much for sharing such brilliant and reel to life metaphors.

    Over the past couple of years I have found myself consistently struggling, going backwards and forwards between the two poles you have described. I feel as though this article has elucidated my church experience as well as anything I’ve ever read.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Agree with Justin about this being one of the best posts ever.

  4. That more and more Saints are finding themselves feeling seasick on such a voyage is not, I think, a bad thing or a sign that the ship is in trouble. It’s instead a sign that we are becoming sailors instead of passengers

    What a beautiful, well-examined metaphor that contains echoes of my own yearnings. I had struggled somewhat with seeming exclusivity of Elder Ballard’s “Old Ship Zion”, but this essay has shifted its meaning for me to think of the ship as a much larger vessel. Large enough for everyone, really, with most of us sick, trying steer the ship the best we can. We could even be grateful for the “mountain waves… and also the great and terrible tempests” (Ether 6:6); it’s what gets us where we need to be.

  5. Just not the Santa Maria!
    Good work, Em. It is a powerful expansion of the metaphor. I wonder how much we can teach individuals to deal with ambiguity and nuance and uncertainty and how much needs to be experienced….

  6. JJ: ha! I know! I didn’t anticipate for the post to be published on Columbus Day, which makes the reference particularly loaded in a way I probably didn’t mean. I certainly hope that whatever voyage the Old Ship is on that at the very least we don’t plunder the promised lands of their resources and leave small pox in our wake. Or perhaps we could be capable of doing so but should know better now how to avoid committing genocide in the name of personal progress. The metaphor overreaches at this point, I think. But yes, haha, perhaps not the Santa Maria after all.

  7. You (speaking to my wife figuratively) have carried my children for 9 months, able to forge this everlasting bond. You will continue to foster and grow this sacred bond through all your toils while I am mostly away from home.

    Please, I beg you, allow me also try and forge a bond with my children by partitioning God for them on this special occasion. This will not only allow me to express my love (which I mostly do not have words for to express) for my children, but in that same moment, a ‘something’ happens that I cannot describe. The Spirit whispers that same love you feel for your child, is eternal, after the same pattern that Father loves you.

    Words that were expressed during the blessing might not be recorded and be forgotten, but the bond that the Holy Spirit forges between me and my children, might be slightly different then yours, will in this way never be lost.

    In other words, please let fathers have some opportunities to feel wholly unqualified, put in a position that we are forced to rely on the Spirit for words we cannot find ourselves, in behalf of our children. It will benefit the family as a whole.

    If we are not forced, we are quite happy to let our fine spiritual wives do the blessing and all will lose out in the end.

  8. SuHwak, there are many problems with your comment, although you are clearly well-intentioned. The first problem is that you wrote ‘partitioning’ instead of ‘petitioning’.

    The other problem is the presumption that gosh, you need to shut the woman out of the blessing in order to forge a spiritual bond with your child and with God. But that is not the way spiritual connections work. The Spirit does not require you to exclude people in favor of some selfish exclusivity. You are perfectly capable of forming spiritual bonds with your child – very powerful ones – with other people around, even women. You do not make a spiritual connection with someone by excluding others. Indeed, the act of exclusion is what grieves the Spirit.

    Then there is the message, nestled in benevolent misogyny, that women are fine and spiritual and will basically be left alone with the kids while you are off to work in the mines, and this is your only shot to make this connection. This is patently false on many levels, both in terms of the spiritual nature of men and women and in terms of the opportunities to bless and participate in the spiritual lives of your children.

    In short, I’m calling BS on everything you wrote, even though I think you are correct in wanting a spiritual connection with your child. I just think you are wrong in your presumptions about how those connections work.

  9. What a stunningly good post!

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Strong work, Emily, thank you for the powerful thoughts.

  11. Leslie Dalton says:

    Thank you for this. Absolutely beautiful!

  12. Spencer Lercher says:

    Emily, I think you came up with a good metaphor for people who have doubts, but are still active. What is keeping you on the boat?

  13. This is such an excellent post. Thanks, Emily.

    I also would like to know what keeps people on this boat. What makes a lifetime of seasickness worth it? Wouldn’t I just be better off finding a safe place to dock? I just feel like my whole life is made up of trying to steady myself. It’s exhausting.

  14. J. Stapley says:

    Emily, thank you for this excellent post. I’m gratedull to be traveling with you.

  15. Sir John Franklin says:

    I suppose I’m with Kerj and Lercher. Why do people stay on this particular boat?

    Spouse. Genuine community. Family traditions. Spouse. Habit. Apathy. Spouse.

    I’ve recently moved to a predominantly LDS locale and many people are employed by the LDS church. Personally, I think they should wear name tags that say, “I’m employed by the captain.” (Though in my time I’ve known some brave individuals who jumped ship even though they were employed by the boat.)

    There are a lot of reasons people stay on the boat. I genuinely like the idea that the sailors on the boat are autonomous, thoughtful sailors willing to seek out their own faith experience.

  16. Really a fantastic post, thank you.

  17. If I may take the metaphor a bit further.

    Many have painfully come to a personal realization that the Old Ship Zion is not, and has never been, on water let alone stormy seas. Instead, it has resided on firm, dry ground, and there is no good reason to be on a ship when they’re safely on land.

    One of the more difficult things for many, after realizing there is no need for the ship, is the act of safely getting from the deck of the ship to the ground; sadly, sometimes it means leaving family and loved ones on board who still think they need a ship because they still fear that they are on dangerous waters. You hopelessly try to get them to see that there is no water below the ship but they are too afraid to even look. They’ve been told repeatedly by the ship crew to never look over the railings for fear of being washed overboard.

    As those individuals who no longer feel the need for the safety of the ship finally make it to the ground they quicky realize that it wasn’t even a ship, but rather a structure built to resemble a ship. The haze of misunderstanding fades to clear comprehension that there is no rudder, no propeller, no anchor…hell, not even a hull. Not only is the fear of the nonexistent water baseless, but the believed solution is not what it portended to be.

    With eyes toward an amazing and exciting world to be discovered, some leave on a new journey. Others, with spouses and children still on board, return to the ship hoping that someday their family will realize that the fake ship is a solution to a nonexistent problem, longing for the day when they too might be able to explore so much more than the fear-based instructions of a crew that sails on nonexistent waters.

  18. Steve,

    I was afraid that my comment might be interpreted that way. I do miss the edit button, because even though I read my comment a few times before committing, I should have phrased my last sentence different, or left out completely.

    Sorry about the ‘partitioning’ instead of ‘petitioning’ mistake, English isn’t my native language. I also had to look up ‘benevolent misogyny’… I learn every day :)

    I know that blessing children isn’t the only opportunity to form a bond with children by far – I know from experience – but feel, like stilesbn, that I too might voluntarily “be crowded out of performing my children’s ordinances”. Because, well, most women are awesome, specially the one that accepted me as her husband!

    I’ve been staring at this for the last half hour now, and I simply can’t find more words how to express my deep appreciation for women in my life, while maintaining that the status quo regarding blessings and ordinances might be better for the family as a whole, and by extension the community. However, I do feel there can be improvements made by letting women participate more in the governance of the church.

  19. “I simply can’t find more words how to express my deep appreciation for women in my life, while maintaining that the status quo regarding blessings and ordinances might be better for the family as a whole”

    That is because there are no such words. The status quo is not better for the family as a whole or the community. You will be happier, your wife will be happier, your kids will be happier and the community will be happier when everyone is a vested, ongoing participant in the spiritual lives of our children.

    Again, I do think you’re working in good faith here, but the system does not need defense. It is doing just fine.

  20. Emily, there is too much good here to single out any particular point. You’ve given me a helpful metaphor, seasickness, that I believe a lot of people experience from time to time, and some more frequently than others, on the old ship.

  21. “Instead, it has resided on firm, dry ground, and there is no good reason to be on a ship when they’re safely on land.”

    If the ship is actually a sturdy building on land then how is it rocking making people feel seasick?

  22. Such a great post. I was so troubled to hear the old quote that haunted me into my late twenties, “faith and doubt cannot reside in the same mind”, over the pulpit at conference. I’m so grateful and happy to find that this is simply not the case, nor does it need to be perpetuated. We are capable of finding beautiful paths in that space in between.

  23. “You will be happier, your wife will be happier, your kids will be happier and the community will be happier when everyone is a vested, ongoing participant in the spiritual lives of our children.”

    Yes!

    But I think we must agree to disagree. Because I think women are naturally more vested (generally speaking) in the spiritual lives of our children then men are, and this might be the reason why Heavenly Father gave us to do this, so we might get close(r) to being equally vested.

  24. Excellent. This captures many of my own feelings, as well as helps me come to terms with my own internal conflicts. I love the quotation from Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

    Thank you.

    (sidenote: we have many mutual friends: I used to work at the Writing Center. Writing Center people are my favorite kind of people)

  25. Wonderful post, Emily. Thanks for bringing this to us. I think hearing your experiences and seeing your analysis of them will be uplifting for many Mormons who have had similar experiences and thoughts. This has given me a lot to consider as I look for ways to make Church a better experience for fellow saints and visitors.

  26. Alpineglow says:

    Why stay on the ship? Because despite how uncomfortable the journey is, 1) it’s going to a destination that you want to go, and 2) it’s the best available way to get there.

    If those two assumptions don’t hold, then it doesn’t make sense to stay on the ship. But if they do, it makes a lot of sense to hold on through the seasickness and bad food and cramped quarters (while also noticing the beautiful sunsets and peaceful breezes and impressive sail and intricately knotted ropes and remarkable crew) to get there.

  27. christiankimball says:

    An excellent and important reflection about polarized thinking. And a valiant effort to make good of the ship metaphor. For myself alone the ship metaphor is too much of what the Church says about itself that I reject. The sharp inside-outside boundary. The idea of safety within and danger without. Even the us-and-them nature of possible other ships on the same sea. But seasickness alone is an important addition and well worth the read and attention. Thanks.

  28. “You will be happier, your wife will be happier, your kids will be happier and the community will be happier when everyone is a vested, ongoing participant in the spiritual lives of our children.”

    So you are a prophet now, telling us how we will feel if we follow your advice? And you know this from…what was your data source?

    Because there is a boatload of data about how men in other faiths are not as fully engaged, the “disappearing male” phenomenon that has been written about and spawned male ministries in other churches.

    I know many, many men who feel like SuHawk. They are humble servants who use their priesthood only to bless the lives of others, never for self-aggrandizement. He has taken a lot of undeserved flak for voicing the view that he feels blessing a baby is the way for him to make a contribution.

  29. Regarding why I stay on the boat, I think that warrants an entire other post, and I may return later this afternoon to better say what I mean here, but, in short, I would argue that regardless of our various religious traditions or lack thereof, life will always be full of similar boat journeys, whether the boat is your family, your company, your country, your fight club–whatever group of people with which you want to associate and travel with. In order to remain in a group that you don’t wholly align with all of the time and aren’t sure what the future holds, I think you have to learn to mark the places that remind you why you stay with that group in the first place, in spite of the rocky seas. This is Thanksgiving dinner for me, every year. Leaving one boat on stormy waves won’t necessarily mean the absence of future seasickness. I don’t fault people for leaving the church if leaving feels right for them. I have a lot of respect for all thoughtful journeys, and it usually takes as much courage to leave as to stay.

    However, I personally don’t feel right leaving the boat, at least not at this point in my journey. I can’t list all the reasons here, but the most important reason for me at this point is that I haven’t given up on the existence of Heavenly Parents, and I believe They can find me in Mormonism as well as anywhere else. I have a lot of faith in our community and the church has been a source of goodness and light for me throughout my life.

    The purpose of this post, for me, is to argue that those of us who choose to stay on the ship in spite of doubts or questions or discomfort need *not* remain perpetually seasick while on board. I believe I can stay and disagree and question and still feel a part of the crew, so to speak. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel cognitive dissonance. I think for me, cognitive dissonance will be perpetual–it is the foot meant to remain unsure and roaming. But I also think that working through cognitive dissonance does not mean feeling seasickness. Regardless of whether I stay on this boat or find another to ride, I hope to always have a place to steady myself while the other parts of me continue to ask difficult, unmooring questions.

    I guess you could say the argument of my post isn’t that everyone should stay on the boat, but that for those of us who do want to stay on the boat, we can do so without feeling sick, and that we can be a valuable crew member capable of enjoying the journey as well as anyone else in the church. It will be easier to do this when the church collectively appreciates conversations that take place in that middle ground between dogma and cynicism.

  30. Oh, wow, we get another post from Emily G?!

    Seriously, a great job of addressing an approach to tolerating the paradoxes of real life.

  31. SuHawk, why would letting your wife be in the circle instead of some random home teacher you barely know and won’t be in your life at all in a couple years going to interfere with your bonding with your child?

  32. “SuHawk, why would letting your wife be in the circle instead of some random home teacher you barely know and won’t be in your life at all in a couple years going to interfere with your bonding with your child?”

    Pardon me but this strikes me as a little bit dishonest. There will be interference.

    Allowing women in the circle is the same as allowing women to perform the blessing. Which means the husband and wife will have to decide who gives the blessing. Which means that sometimes the husband will not give the blessing. Which means that the husband loses that chance to bond with the child while the wife gains that chance to bond with the child.

    I suppose from a utilitarian perspective there is still an net increase of bonding through the couple. Suppose that performing the blessing gains you 10 bonding points while participating in the bonding circle gains you 5 bonding points. The total bonding points is 15 if the wife can participate but the husband stands to lose 5 bonding points.

    I admitted above (as stilesbn) that it is a selfish outlook. And I actually would be glad and welcome a change to allow women to be included. But I do so knowing that it would be a loss to me and other men who currently enjoy the position of privilege.

  33. Steve,

    I’m not sure how you came to that interpretation of Naismith’s post. She stated that data shows that men as a whole are less engaged in the spiritual lives of their children. She said nothing prescriptive of what should be.

  34. Bryan, I’ve deleted my comment and will bow out.

  35. “Are you seriously advancing the argument that parents should NOT be both engaged in the spiritual lives of their children?”

    Not at all. I totally agree with you on this. I only disagree on the best way to accomplish the goal.

    I’ve known situations where men discourage their wives from breastfeeding because they resent the special bond that develops between the nursling and mother. They think that by both parents doing the same things for the child (e.g., feeding a bottle) that it is somehow better. Given the body of literature in favor of breastfeeding, I do not agree that they are correct.

    Is it not possible that both parents are engaged in the spiritual lives of their children, but in different ways?

    “Take a break, chief. Come back some other time.”

    I will ignore this condescending male comment, because I am so much more damn spiritual than you are.

  36. I appreciated this post, thanks Emily. I think at this point in my life I am wondering how I hoist my children on to the boat with me and watch their possible perpetual sea sickness knowing that I am the one who put them here. It’s a question of morality for me. If I am not totally on board myself, how do I raise steady children?

  37. Wow, Bryan. How is it dishonest when women are currently not allowed to be in the circle, or even hold the baby in the middle of the circle? It makes sense to ask what harm there would be in inching forward to one of those to waypoints between our current actual reality and women being voice of the blessing. And those are actual plausible waypoints–it is not in fact “the same” to be in the circle and be voice. “Unworthy” fathers are sometimes allowed in the circle but not voice. It’s a category that exists (sort of self-evidently, I can’t believe I’m having to explain this to you). These are actual concessions women have asked for and been denied. You’re making a slippery slope argument.

  38. I have to wonder if some of the changes in our practices in the Church today are “more correct” or just a over reaction to accommodations taken too far to be acceptable. I suspect the latter rather than the former. For example, my father, a non-member held me and most if not all of my siblings when were were blessed as infants. I suspect my grandfather’s blessing was just as valid. It’s easy to imagine how “If dad (or mom) than why not….” was bent until it broke and strict by the narrowly defined book became the only option. I expect the pendulum will swing back again.

  39. It is possible, because some religions do this, to have more than one solitary “voice”. We ourselves have anointing and sealing for those who are sick and afflicted, allowing two voices. Someone at conference spoke his wife’s words. We can use our imaginations. They are powerful vehicles for listening to the Spirit, because they allow us to see things as they could be, and shed some of our assumptions. And, foolish or vain as it may be, I like to imagine the day I will be able to co-voice a baby blessing with my (eventual) husband.

    Emily, this post was lovely and expansive. Thank you for sharing it.

  40. J. Stapley says:

    I would just warn people against making dramatic pronouncements regarding what it would mean for the liturgy if a given demographic was included to hold the baby. The history will likely not support you.

  41. The idea of bonding points is stupid, but let’s pretend like it’s a thing. My husband and I are on the same side. It is not a competition between us to see who can get the most points of any kind from our children. Any points received are shared. We are on the same team.
    That said, I resent the idea that women’s participation in any part of the church takes something away from men, whether that be in the family or the church at large. All spiritual contributions should be welcome. This is also not a competition.
    But before you say “well then, the men’s points better us all,” think about the pain and harm it causes for the women to never be able to leave the bench. Think of the contributions we miss out on. Think of the families that do not have both a husband and wife actively earning points.
    Now I’ll shut up because I hate mixed metaphors and I’m so mad I’m still talking about bonding points.

  42. and, cjane, somehow disallowing them from getting on board feels wrong, too. Your children are (perceptive, open-hearted) people – making room for them on this boat, and sympathising with seasickness is not the same as locking them in the cabin until it’s too late to jump ship without drowning. I feel like you bring them on day-trips at different ports, and admire other ships and their passengers, and show them how you take care of yourself during times of seasickness. I think they will have the tools they need to make their own choices.

    And, if we do ditch the ship for a while, for everybody’s health and sanity, somehow it’s always back in port right as we need it again. (And something about always having Christ – we can find bread and water wherever we are?)

    (Gee, I love extending a good metaphor).

  43. Thank you, Jenny. The whole points system idea was reductive to the point of revolting. Our family life can be reduced to the logic of a crappy circa 1983 video game? Wow.

  44. I love what oleablossom says about raising kids on the boat. That’s better than I could have expressed it.

    And cjane, I bookmarked your post “To My Mormon Daughters” in 2014 so that I could recall it as my own daughters get older (my oldest is only 4). I was so touched and inspired by your message, that, honestly, I feel like I should be getting boat-parenting advice from you rather than the other way around.

  45. Sir John Franklin says:

    Emily G.,

    I’ve been on ship leave for the better part of 10 years. Your comment at 9:01 a.m. just about persuades me to get back in the boat. That is as thoughtful a reason to remain faithful to one’s religious group as I’ve ever read, and the basis for a rewarding life within a faith-based community. Thank you.

  46. I apologize for offending with a thought experiment with utility. In economics reducing things to quantifiable numbers that you can work with is common place when thinking about un-quantifiable things. So happiness for example is often referred to in units of “utils”.

    Regarding the slippery slope. I had already substituted “Participate in the circle” with “Be able to participate/perform the blessing” in my head so I was reading from that perspective. I see that is not the discussion here and apologize for the dishonesty remark and see it doesn’t apply now.

    Jenny.
    My bonding points example concluded that the family unit as a whole would be better off with women participating. I’m not sure what you are arguing against other than the fact that you hate the phrase “Bonding points”.

    I think I will have to bow out of this discussion now too because I’m causing a lot of contention and the revulsion to my post makes me think that there is no way to discuss this.

  47. Thank you for your comment, Chris. You completely nailed it.

  48. If ever there was a group of people who should be reluctant to utilize sea faring metaphors, it should be those who quite deliberately landlocked themselves. As any ship owner will tell you, the two best days in any ship owner’s life are the day they bought the ship and the day they sold the ship.

    Perhaps others’ vision of the Good Ship Zion conjures up visions of transoceanic bliss, but for others it is more often than not a Disney Carnival cruise with an E. Coli outbreak.

    Also: Titanic.

  49. Well our brains are shaped by our respective professions, because all I could think about was this: https://vimeo.com/76260259

  50. Thank you Emily. One of the best things I’ve read in a long time.

    Would you or one of the admins please email me? I would like permission to repost this in its entirety at Our Cooperative Ministry (subsidiary to the Mormon Women Project and companion to Neylan McBaine’s book Women At Church). meredithmarshallnelson at gmail.com

  51. Meredith, shoot an email to admin -at- bycommonconsent dot-com.

  52. I really identified with your struggle, and I loved the way you described it. I thought I was lost at sea for awhile, but I, too, am trying to regain my sea legs.

  53. Cynthia H. says:

    This post really resonated with me. Thank you! I think it’s also important for people to remember that seasickness isn’t somthing you catch. We don’t need to avoid being around someone who is troubled by things within the church. My doubts and questions don’t have to become your doubts and questions. And telling me that I’m not seasick doesn’t make the seasickness go away. You don’t need to try to prove to me (through scripture, General Conference talks, etc.) that I’m not seasick. What you can do is be there to give me succor when I need it. You can be compassionate and show empathy. You can cry with me and help me to stand. You may not see the horizon through the same lenses that I do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.

  54. Why stay on the ship?
    –“it’s going to a destination that you want to go.” Yep, I agree.
    –“it’s the best available way to get there.” This sounds too utilitarian for me.
    –The family, spouse, apathy, and convenience arguments–none of those hold for me. I could easily leave–as a convert with no spouse or children, I’m free to go when I like.

    I stay because the church is good for me. It takes me out of my introvert comfort zone. It makes me work with others when I could do the job just fine on my own. It makes me care for and serve others that I might not see otherwise. In other words, it’s good for me because it makes me uncomfortable and makes me a better person. So, really, I think maybe all members of the church should feel a bit seasick–out of their element, assigned to do seemingly impossible tasks (even if that means believing), working with seemingly impossible people. I think when we’re NOT seasick, we’re complacent, sitting in the doldrums, stagnating. Likewise, doubting and questioning just means you’re just ready to learn. The church as a great history of doubters and questioners (like Joseph Smith). Doubting and questioning aloud might make other people feel uncomfortable, even seasick, but that’s good for them, too.

    But the church isn’t just a service organization or an educational organization. I mean, has anyone ever attended another church? I remember as a kid attending a church that taught God was angry and out to punish. I remember the missionaries teaching us that God was our father who loved us. I didn’t even need an earthly father nearby to know that God as heavenly parents made so much more sense. Having said that, I have some “holy envy” for aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but I think that means I just need to incorporate those. After all, we believe in finding truth, no matter its source. And, luckily, as a convert, I can just laugh at the weird ideas that float around. Like that it’s evil to play in the backyard on Sundays, that you have to wear a dress all day on Sundays, that fatherhood means nothing more than interviewing your children once a month, that educated women hate children, or that great grandma who was the 3rd wife was really the prettiest and the favorite. I mean, why doesn’t anyone ever claim their great grandma was the ugly ignored wife? If there was a favorite, there was a not-favorite!

    In any case, I digress. Emily, you’re a genius. I love going to use the ship/seasick/be a sailor thing. And as for ships–I love the Beagle!

  55. Spencer Lercher says:

    Sir John Franklin

    I applaud your decision to stay on the boat. What about the post led you to your current conclusion?

  56. Spencer Lercher says:

    Emily G,

    I appreciate your thoughtful response. I believe the seasickness arises from Mormonism inherent paradoxes. I am crediting Terryl Givens with this observation. I do believe a paradox that causes tension is the emphasis on eternal families yet there are ordinances like baby blessings that exclude Mothers. I sympathize with Mothers who desire to participate but cannot. Yet, I stay on the boat because staying committed to my covenants will allow me to be with my family forever.

  57. Spencer Lercher says:

    Sorry Sir John, I should of read your post more closely. If you don’t mind me asking, what will persuade you to come back on the boat?

  58. Emily, this is stellar work. Thank you!

  59. Sir John Franklin says:

    I really like being called “Sir John.” I might just stick with this anonymous name.

    “What will persuade me to get back in the boat?” Probably deep, irrevocable loss. I’m afraid I would climb into any boat on that day. Loss will get me in the boat.

    Also, severe brain trauma will get me in the boat.

    And people. Dammit, I love Mormon people. Nearly every one of them. If I woke up tomorrow and all the Mormons told me, “Hey there Sir John, we’re now Catholic. We’re going on a father-and-son campout,” I’d respond, “Wait for me.” I love Mormons even though I have no idea how they believe what they say they believe. So I guess people get me in the boat no matter where we’re headed.

    Loss. Brain trauma. People. … and psychoactive substances. If those become legit, I’m desperately curious.

  60. In order to do a complete and accurate analogy with a sailboat that really sail ; we can understand the art of sailing: 1) to sail a boat in a real sea, you need an strong team of sailors ; each of one knows his/her role and responsibility. All of them are important: from the skipper to the bowman.2) The crew has to know how to use the wind, the waves and the current to arrive to the next port, safely and without losses. 3) Before to start the journey, all of them
    share their ideas, plans and strategies but ! Once all agree in a plan, all the crew are aligned behind the skipper who has the main responsibility. Finally, once on the sea…who abandon the boat…probably died.

  61. A Happy Hubby says:

    Wow. This rings so true to how I feel. I am past the “angry at the church for their cover-up”, but not seeing another ship to jump to, nor does the open water sound appealing. What do I do? Emily suggests Dramamine!

  62. Wow, I found my soul saying “yes!” to this whole post. Thank you so much for writing it. It has helped me understand myself and my husband and our individual and collective journeys so much better. Beautiful. Thank you.

  63. Where is the LIKE button for Cynthia H’s comment?

    Also, as a reflection of the paradoxes, I am not actually opposed to women blessing babies; I only see the value that men find in being able to do it. Yes, my telescope looks like a kaleidoscope a lot…

  64. ” I knew that I would not be a part of the blessing or the circle of brothers surrounding my baby.,”

    I don’t understand this (persistent, oft-cited) conclusion. My wife held all four of our children during their blessings. She sat and held them in her arms or on her lap while the MelqPriesthood holders laid hands on their head for the blessing. 4 Kids, 3 different wards and bishoprics. All I did was say, “I’d like to have my wife holding the baby; ok?” Easy-peasy: instant meaningful participation. Am I the only one who asked?

  65. First, love the post! Thank you.

    “I’m done now pretending to have as much fun as everyone else.”

    I think that instead of a desire for authenticity or intellectual honesty, or whatever deep reason many of us struggle, that the desire for fun will resonate for Millenials. After all, if there is no real God-mandated reason to not have a particular type of fun, or if a bunch of old men in Utah are interpreting for us, that generation may need a different type of sea legs.

  66. N., agreed, also my experience. Can someone quote the manual on this?

  67. eponymous says:

    This would be the relevant section that most leaders look to in Section 20.1.1:

    Only brethren who hold the necessary priesthood and are worthy may perform an ordinance or blessing or stand in the circle. Those who participate are usually limited to a few, including priesthood leaders, close family members, and close associates such as home teachers. Inviting large numbers of family, friends, and leaders to assist in an ordinance or blessing is discouraged. When too many participate, it can become cumbersome and detract from the spirit of the ordinance. Those who perform an ordinance and those who preside are the only ones required. Others provide support and sustain the spokesman.

    When several brethren participate in an ordinance or blessing, each one places his right hand lightly on the person’s head (or under the baby being blessed) and his left hand on the shoulder of the brother to his left.

    Even though only a limited number of brethren stand in the circle when a person receives an ordinance or blessing, family members are usually invited to attend.

    Leaders encourage worthy brethren who hold the necessary priesthood to perform or participate in ordinances and blessings for their family members.

    The second relevant section would 20.2
    (This is all from Handbook 2 which is available to all members of the Church to read on the LDS.org website.)

    20.2 Naming and Blessing Children
    20.2.1
    General Guidelines

    “Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name” (D&C 20:70). In conformity with this revelation, only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in naming and blessing children. Priesthood leaders should inform members of this instruction before their children are named and blessed. While preserving the sacred nature of the blessing, leaders should make every reasonable effort to avoid embarrassment or offense to individuals or families.

    Children are normally named and blessed during fast and testimony meeting in the ward where the parents are members of record.

    20.2.2
    Instructions for Naming and Blessing a Child

    When blessing a baby, Melchizedek Priesthood holders gather in a circle and place their hands under the baby. When blessing an older child, brethren place their hands lightly on the child’s head. The person who gives the blessing:
    1. Addresses Heavenly Father.
    2. States that the blessing is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
    3. Gives the child a name.
    4. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.
    5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

    But note that it makes no mention of someone sitting in the middle of the circle holding the baby. I know mothers who have also done the same. It all depends on how the Bishop reads “participation.” The spirit of that word is those who are actively participating in the blessing as “sustainers” and “supporters” of the spokesman. A Bishop might choose to take a more conservative interpretation of only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may be in the circle full stop. I think that’s the wrong interpretation but there you have it.

  68. A Happy Hubby says:

    I think the newer generation are going to want jet ski’s, not an old boat. They want meaning, but they also want fun. I have one of the groups that reports under me at work are full of <30 year olds. They are always shooting their hand up to volunteer for community service if it is a group they like. Maybe part of that is to get time away from being around me – the old pointy-haired boss – but I read it more as they are passionate about helping and improving the world.

  69. eponymous – thanks! I do believe this opens it up to interpretation that the ones “performing” the blessing are those “standing in the circle.” So a mother sitting in the circle holding the child should be no problem.

    Something to discuss with the Bishop before the blessing day so as not to cause an awkward scene, but worth asking the question anyways.

  70. N., no, you are not the only one who asked. That’s a sort of victim-blamey way to ask the question, by the way. Women ask all the time and are almost always denied. Women ask if they can if they do it at home instead in Sacrament and they are almost always denied. It happens, but it’s very much the exception to the rule at the present time.

    There is no good reason for this, and leaders who allow it are not doing anything “edgy” or out of bounds AT ALL, in my opinion. But there it is.

  71. I really love your analogy and you write so thoughtfully. Thank you for sharing it.

    As I was thinking about the concept of the old ship zion being on the seas and how change/motion can cause a feeling of sea sickness, I had this thought.

    Sometimes we accentuate the motion that is happening and compound our own feelings of unease and seasickness.

    For example, learning about prophetic fallibility (i.e., Brigham teaching false doctrines or how Joseph implemented polygamy) was made worse because of my personal beliefs about HOW a prophet should act and behave.

    My beliefs that a prophet was a special person who lived a higher law than “normal” people like me caused more pain than I needed than if I had a more realistic view that prophets are just people too, trying to do their best.

    My belief that a prophet couldn’t ever be wrong, really made for a lot of seasickness. Whereas, if I believed that prophets are inspired, but see through a glass darkly, just like Paul taught, then these new revelations may have only caused minor motion and seasickness.

    So I now actively look at where my perspective may be wrong and quickly try to jettison those beliefs that just cause pain and really aren’t based upon anything that is true.

    Thank you again.

  72. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Cynthia, I’ll chime in by saying that I think N. asks a good question, and I didn’t read it as being “victim-blamey”. It’s simply a question of: if we asked, would we see things like this (mom holding the baby up front, in the circle) more? It’s actually a good question.

    And I for one don’t know if everyone who feels excluded on this particular issue actually asked, or not. You assert that this is the case, that many (if not most) ask and are denied, etc. And even for requests like: can we do the baby blessing at home, you say that such requests “are almost always denied”. How do you know this? I mean, maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. I don’t know.

    (And as an aside, this is a good example of why we need to do more polling/research in the church – – see for instance suggested bullet point #3 in this post. One of the benefits of this kind of data gathering and analysis by the church could be simply a better understanding of how practices like this work. i.e., how common ARE instances of alternative-baby-blessing-logistics denial, actually? How important is this to members writ large? Are these kinds of practices localized to certain geographic areas, for instance?)

    In the absence of really having a good sense of what the data might actually show, assuming that requests to bless babies at home are routinely denied is just speculation. Or we’re extrapolating from our own direct experience, which is admittedly easy to do.

    For instance, (and in contrast to your assertion) it’s difficult for me to not be skeptical of of an assumed “request denial” epidemic, simply because I haven’t personally seen evidence of it. Four kids, three different wards in three different states, and only one was blessed in a sacrament meeting – the other three were blessed in private settings. Never an issue, Bishop never batted an eye. Ditto for their four baptisms: only one in a church font, the other three in ocean or river. Furthermore, during my entire time serving in a bishopric, later – in yet a fourth ward, fourth state – we got exactly zero requests for non-sacrament-meeting baby blessings during those years. My takeaway from all this? Most folks likely don’t consider doing these ordinances in a different setting (and perhaps may not even want to), and so they don’t even ask. Based on my own experience, N.’s observation seems plausible to me.

    At any rate, don’t get me wrong: I’m extrapolating from my experience, and you are perhaps extrapolating from yours. And I don’t at all doubt that painful denials have happened, that when it happens it IS painful, it IS essentially arbitrary, and that the practice DOES exist, and might even seem routine to some due to bearing the brunt of it. But I’m just casting doubt on your assertion that obtaining permission for a nontraditional baby blessing setting is “very much the exception to the rule at the present time.” I just simply don’t know if that’s true. Maybe I’ve been lucky. Maybe you’ve been unlucky. Perhaps we’re both in the wee tiny tails of the distribution, and for the vast majority of church members, “setting for baby blessing” or “mom holds baby during blessing” don’t even register as things to worry about. The point is, I don’t know.

    Why does all this matter? Here’s why: I took N.’s comment as a reminder that we shouldn’t always assume the worst. That sometimes – and this WILL probably sound victim-blamey – I wonder if those of us who self-identify as more progressive, or nontraditional, are LOOKING to be pushed to the margins. We expect it, and therefore it manifests. But I wonder if some of the evidence we cite simply requires that we ask, in order for old practices or prejudices to recede?

    By the way, Cynthia, you and I (and many other commentators, apparently) are in total agreement that this is one of the finest essays I’ve read on navigating faith/doubt/identity, ever. Kudos Emily Grover for the essay itself – brilliantly articulated.

  73. I almost abandoned the “Old Ship BCC” after that stupid and vulgar police beat post last week but this beautiful, thoughtful piece pulled me back from the railing. Really, it was so well articulated and persuasive. I hope we hear more from you here.

  74. @ cjanekendrick – you have articulated perfectly the dilemma I find myself in. If it were just me then it would be much easier to either leave or stay. But what about my young daughters? If I feel like the boat is not the best thing for my family, but I fail to disembark, aren’t I leaving all that messy work for them should they also feel a need to extricate themselves? But in leaving the boat, I might also risk losing my marriage, in which case a life of shared custody and split holidays with my girls seems like a Iesser alternative than just staying aboard, despite the rough seas. And I have a great marriage, so it doubly sucks. Any advice out there from fellow shipmates?

  75. eponymous says:

    BlueRidgeMormon, just to clarify, my read is Cynthia is saying women have asked to hold the baby in the circle either at Church or at home and been denied. Most Bishops will not deny the request to bless the baby at home but I’ve heard anecdotally it still does get denied at times for various reasons.

    We have a cultural expectation run amok. The thinking is that Fathers/men have always held the baby and therefore allowing a mother to do so violates the principle. Others simply haven’t read the manual and considered it carefully. And yet others have read it and made the decision that the manual states “only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate” and they’re worried that it starts down some imaginary slippery slope toward women and the Priesthood.

    Here’s the thing though, how many times have you given a blessing to a sick child where the mother held the infant in order to soothe the ailing baby? I’ve done it many times. I’m certain many families have done so. There is NO difference. Absolutely none.

  76. Eponymous, you are right on.

  77. Two Cents says:

    J. Crown and cjanekendrick,

    The ship metaphor is only one way to think about the LDS church in 2015. Emily has done a wonderful job of using the metaphor to express her ideas on faith, but that metaphor is going to have limitations. It’s just the nature of using metaphors.

    In 2015 the LDS church is a bus. You can get on and off as many times as you like. Some people say that on Sundays you must ride the bus for three hours. Nope. You can bring coffee on the bus. I know this because … well, I just know. You can wear any kind of underwear you like on the bus. If your kids ask you why the driver of the bus is always a man, you can find another bus across town where the driver is a woman. When you’re not on the bus, you can explore any ideas you damn well please. Shoot, even while you’re on the bus if you have an Internet connection you explore any idea you damn well please.

    Truth is nobody in the developed world is stuck on a ship. (I say that without disparaging the wonderfully written OP that was working with the metaphor offered at conference.)

    I’d also recommend seeking out online communities. There are some very thoughtful folks out there who actually discuss mixed-faith marriages and raising children LDS when you have serious reservations. I mean, like honest people. People who won’t tell you to read your scriptures more and pray more. Like, people who think and stuff. :-)

  78. Cynthia L. is no doubt more aware than some commenters of the long history of mothers’ desires and requests to hold their babies during blessings. It’s an issue that is far older than any question of ordaining women and is a staple of informed Mormon feminism. You can find scores of women writing about their requests and denials by googling {mother baby blessing circle} (add {-blessingway} to thin out much of the non-Mormon results, but know that you’re also screening out some Mormon discussion, too). And that’s only the internet age — this discussion was strong in pre-internet print media. It’s such a longstanding, widespread discussion that it’s a little amazing that anybody even thinks to ask anymore, if they’re involved enough to be aware of the track record of denials.

    In this case, maybe ignorance IS bliss: if you’re ignorant of the history, you might ask. But don’t criticize any family for not asking — they, like Cynthia L., just may be better informed than you are.

  79. O Captain! My Captain! says:

    Thank you Emily. I hope to read more of your writing – you have quite a gift. (I spoke too soon – just saw the announcement. Sweet!)

    Clearly the sea/ship metaphor has limits, but I think we need to address the question ‘Who is our real Captain?’ I hear, “Lo here! Lo there! Lo! We are scripture. We cannot lead you astray.”

    I’m guessing I’m not here just to be a passive passenger taking orders. Questions, doubt, dissent – none of it seems remotely welcomed by the crew right now. ‘Collectively carving out space more conducive to dissenting minds’ sounds heavenly – but certain souls who have actually voiced dissent have been sent to walk the plank. [The biggest paradox (for me) right now was said beautifully by Steve E. “The act of exclusion is what grieves the Spirit.” What I’m seeing on the ground is exclusion — restrictive access to sacred ritual, exclusive, smaller & tighter circles the higher up the chain you go, 2nd anointings, sacred secrets that justify lying. What happened to “God is no respecter of persons”?]

    I found myself near the end of your essay almost saying out loud, “Don’t tease us with this!” Do you know how I’ve longed to be part of a church that actively invites questions, listens wholeheartedly to dissent, fearlessly promotes autonomy of Spirit & agency, and considers its own fallibility with a pure and honest heart? I’m not bothered by your essay because it has faults, but because it so sorely portrays what I wish were the truth.

  80. Well, I look away from BCC for a few days and BAM, Emily Grover lands like a Mars Rover! It’s too bad Mariner Books ditched their Best American Spiritual Writing anthology because this is worthy of the title. As evidenced by the comments, there is a poetry working here that has penetrated the hearts of many. Looking forward to reading your work on this esteemed webizine.

  81. I see a lot of agitating for people to stay at church lately. I see people describe concerns they have with something, and then urge patience, reminding us that either we will learn or God will change it.
    Is this particular to Mormonism? I feel like most people would say “If you don’t like it look for a church that works better for you”. We are likely to respond “It isn’t whether I like it or not but if it is true that matters.” But if that is so, then should we even complain? Shouldn’t we just accept what we are told? Isn’t that willingness, or rather the lack what stands between us and the further light and knowledge anyway?
    It seems we get two distinct messages depending on what we need; as if some of us know one church and some know another. To put it another way, some of us are buffet Mormons and some of us think that this approach is evil: “You cannot approach the gospel as you would a buffet or smorgasbord, choosing here a little and there a little. You must sit down to the whole feast and live the Lord’s loving commandments in their fulness.” (Wirthlin 1998 https://www.lds.org/liahona/1998/11/its-your-choice?lang=eng)
    Since would say we make good in our own image.
    Of course being a buffet Mormon myself I usually just leave that unappetizing dish and go for more of sister Vega’s cheesy potatoes, but knowing it is there makes me feel like I am not really a Mormon, just someone who likes some of it and might be better off elsewhere. Then I remember that this is God’s trust church and I struggle.

  82. Although a bit tangential to the post (but related to a topic brought up in the thread), I wanted to mention here that we had two baby blessings in my (new) ward today. They had the father and mother come up to the stand together, and then the mother sat on the stand next to the bishopric during the blessing. The father (or in one case, grandfather) performed the blessing, and then afterward the mother and father held up the baby together for the congregation to admire. I have never seen this done before but I thought it was an interesting approach.

  83. This was beautifully written, and your thoughts mirror mine in so many ways, yet I would never be able to express them so eloquently. Thank you for finding the words for me.

  84. Well written and I thoroughly appreciated the podcast you participated in. I’m excited to send this to a few family members, one a freshman niece at BYU-I. Thank you for this great piece!

  85. Fantastic post–one that I relate to and speaks to my soul. Emily, I also enjoyed your contribution to the most recent Mormon Matters podcast. Keep up your great work.