Theory and Doctrine, and our Horrible and Beautiful Lives

I’ve had a very expensive education.  The older I get, the more I’m finding that the only thing it is really good for is to sound witty and erudite at cocktail parties.  The irony is that I don’t drink and hate cocktail parties.  Instead of learning my lesson, a make it on your own bootstraps and grit kind of lesson, I’m going back to school.  Again.  For another very expensive degree.  One could draw the conclusion that education does not make you smarter.

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Help Me Teach With Inspiration

You knew it was inevitable.  Within weeks of joining a family ward, I was assigned to corrupt the youth.  Okay, not actually assigned–apparently I "volunteered" to teach early morning Seminary, and let’s just say that no one has actually prescribed corruption.  We’ll see what happens. 

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Keep Sweet

Last night I was watching PrimeTime Live’s report on a woman from Colorado City who had escaped a polygamous marriage with her five children and returned to confront her abusive father and husband.  It was uncomfortable for me to watch–the kind of story that makes me wonder about my polygamous ancestors, and what kind of ownership I have over the current cult problem because of distantly shared religious ideas.

One idea that won’t leave me is the focus the reporter put on the phrase “Keep Sweet.”  Apparently it is something of a mantra repeated to young girls to remind them of their place–their submissive role in marriage.  Disturbingly, this notion of submissiveness is somehow fixed to a notion of femininity–a package presented to these girls, tied up with religious guilt and obligation, that they must accept, whether willingly, guiltily, or painfully.  Why femininity?  Is it simply an effective weapon used against these girls, or is there some spiritual merit to femininity that we can either responsibly harness or warp in an effort to gain unrighteous dominion?

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The Nature of Family

I just returned from a rather lengthy trip to Utah.  Not under the time constraints that usually keep my visits with my family short, I was able to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and have come up with a few conclusions, and of course a few questions. 

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Stop Making Assumptions About Me

There seems to be a growing undercurrent in church culture of treating single women with careers with a certain amount of suspicion.  I’ve noticed the following, or been part of the following conversations in the last six months or so.  1) Someone in the Bloggernacle linked to a letter to the editor to the Daily Universe by a male student’s mother.  She lamented the number of women who seemed uninterested in having families, and instead were pursuing their careers.  She suggested that the women spend more time pursuing an MRS. degree at BYU.  2)  I was having a conversation with a  favorite cousin of mine in Utah.  He wants to get  married and was looking for girls to date.  I asked him what he was looking for and he said "Well, you know, not the Hillary Clinton type."  Intrigued and amused, I pressed him.  "You know, women who don’t care about their families."  3)  The very helpful talk by the local bishop at the annual Duck Beach phenomenon for singles in North Carolina.  Basically, "I know your single life is so fun, but you really should want to get married."  4) The apparently controversial cover article in the Ensign this month mentioned this same observation.  Overall I liked the article, but bristled a little at the suggestion that staying single and having a career was "glamorous. "  Perhaps assuming that the glamour was outweighing the desire to get married and have children,  women were choosing to turn their backs on having families.

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Soliciting Letters to the Editor(s)

Why do you blog?  What are you getting out of blogging?  What would you like to get out of blogging?  What interests you about BCC?  What ticks you off about BCC?  What features would you like to see?  What is your favorite blog?  Why?  Here’s your chance to sound off and tell your humble (or not) perma-bloggers exactly what you think.  Lurking a lot?  Here’s your chance to chime in.

Our Own Little Diaspora: Oh The Drama!

I feel that one of my functions at BCC is to be the voice of the single community within the church.  Not that you all need to know the details of my dating life, which although at times entertaining, are not blog worthy.  But once in a while something so momentous happens that I feel I need to blog about it.  Last time, the momentous occasion was me noticing that dating in a singles ward is like being on a crappy reality t.v. show.  That was marginally big.  This time I’m serious, it’s BIG!  Here’s the news:  I’m old.  I’ve been banished.  I’m on my way to being a cheap Sheri Dew imitation.  The drama and angst is perhaps too much to handle…forgive me while I wipe my tears and daintily blow my nose….

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General Conference

Reactions to General Conference?  Comments?  Questions?  Epiphanies?  Post Below.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! One of my favorite holidays that no one in America celebrates…which is a shame.  I think that International Women’s Day has such potential–it’s a celebration of women without the guilt and angst associated with Mother’s day.  Plus, in my mind, because I discovered it while living in Russia, it has slightly vague socialist overtones…celebrate the women, heroes of our great progressive culture. 

So, BCC readers, as celebration of this great heroic day of progressivist good is basically a blank slate here in America, I solicit your suggestions.  How should we celebrate International Women’s Day?  (Can’t think of anything buy flowers for the women you love…Russia still does some things right…)

Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

I’ve been reading the famous charity passages in both 1 Corinthians 13, and Moroni 7.  I’m fascinated by these passages.  They are clearly important in the world of Mormon doctrine.  Like the Sermon on the Mount and some Isaiah passages, the Moroni incarnation of the charity doctrine is in part a repetition from the Bible.  Also, the phrase "charity never faileth", found in both books of scripture, is the motto chosen for the Relief Society, and one of the first scriptural exhortations that most people memorize just by sheer repetition in church and visual media.   The Book of Mormon clarification that "charity is the pure love of Christ" is the basis of our doctrine linking the spiritual gift of charity to the outward manifestations of good works.  This is important, basic doctrine, rightly emphasized, and always inspiring.

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Book of Mormon on the Red Carpet

So I was reading the news (read: this afternoon, and came across the following item in the live blog from the Golden Globes last night:

7:22 p.m.: Arrested Development‘s David Cross walks the red carpet accompanied by…the Book of Mormon. He’s overheard telling an interviewer that he brought along the tome as emergency reading material because "these things get boring."

Huh?  Was that outright funny?  (religious comedy props–the new wave of humor…)  Ironically funny?  (Perhaps an homage to Mark Twain’s famous "ether in print" comment…)  Endearing?  Surrealist Art?  Sincere?

I invite you all to come up with theories.  Author of best theory will be crowned BCC queen of the day (regardless of your actual gender.)

My Foray into the Theatah

Well, that’s a bit of a high brow title to describe my community theater experience last month, but it was an experience to be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than with a fake British accent.  (Just ask Madonna…or Esther).  Sometime in November, my roommate, who teaches children’s music classes at the local community center, was asked to be the pianist for the community theater’s production of  "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."   She was already singing in another production, but after being assured that it just involved playing some hymns during the pageant, she suggested that they contact me.  I was a bit skeptical, because I’m more than a bit stage shy when it comes to playing the piano (more on that later), but I figured it was just a couple of hymns, and I really could use the money….so voila.  I got the job.

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Oh Glorious Bronzed Hornsman–How long we have awaited thy arrival!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen…the folks at WalMart are recognizing the buying power of Mormons, and are filling that with a glorious bronzed hornsman…complete with a tennis visor.


So how do you all feel about marketing efforts towards church members? Off shoot of church’s marketing plan as suggested by Deseret News? Tacky? Priestcraft? Necessary and welcome? Will you be buying a bronzed hornsman for your relatives this Christmas?

Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon

I’m planning Thanksgiving this week which got me thinking about previous Thanksgivings. They fall into pretty much two categories. Category One: Long plane rides home for a too short weekend with my family, consisting of doing lots of dishes while hoping that no one in my extended family is fighting. One memorable Thanksgiving red eye plane ride in law school found me sitting next to a very smelly little man who tended to cuddle after he fell asleep. Category Two: being a stray taken in by charitable people whose sense of duty probably outstripped their affection for me. Another memorable Thanksgiving found me in an apartment in Boston with a hostess with strep throat, who felt well enough only to bake a turkey. There was another Mormon girl there with me, who was so overwhelmed to be surrounded by Harvard Law Students that she had a “drunk Mormon episode” fueled by adrenaline rather than wine. She karaoked the entire Rent soundtrack at the top of her lungs while the authentically drunk law students sat around staring at her with mouths gaping open. On the way home some guy with a southie accent called me and my friend lesbians. A day forever emblazened on my memory.

This year will be different. This year, I’m cooking dinner with my urban Singleton family. (huzzah for Bridget Jones!) As I found out last year, Singleton dinners are wonderful. No family fights, no green bean casserole, and no football. And once I figured out I could cook a turkey without burning down the house, my enjoyment only increased. This year, riding on last years’ success, we’re doing it again. And possibly taking in some strays–only we will not play the Rent soundtrack.

So, here’s the thing I’ve realized while planning Thanksgiving for my urban Singleton family. They really are family. We take care of each other. Together we’ve gone through major surgery, job loss, illness, grief over (traditional) family tragedies, hookups, and breakups. Armed by our cell phones, we all know that help is one chain of kindly gossip away. Our families know it too. My friend’s sister called one of us the day of that friend’s emergency surgery. A quick phone conference to decide who could take work off, and we had someone at the hospital in 30 minutes. My roommates’ moms call, and talk to me about my job woes before they talk to their own daughters. My parents praise my friends more than they praise me. (Or at least my insecure self thinks they do.) We have some important things in common. We’re all committed to living gospel-oriented lives, and we check up on each other. There is safety in confessing both doubts and triumphs to an unconditionally caring ear.

I think I’ve always subconsciously bought into the idea that my gratitude was for the opportunity to simulate an authentic Mormon life in an unconventional environment while I waited for my chance to have a family of my own. But as I’ve been planning Thanksgiving for my favorite Singletons, I realized we’re all living authentic Mormon lives. We are taking the admonitions of prophets and scriptures and structuring our lives to fit them. We are committed “gospel livers” and not “gospel waiters.” We live in a world so centered around family that we forget that the perfect family doesn’t exist. All committed members living gospel lives inside or outside a traditional family are authentic Mormons, because we are all taking gospel principles and trying to apply it to whatever craziness life is throwing at us. And let’s face it. Life tends to throw the crazy right about this time of year. May all your holidays be filled with minimal craziness assuaged by your authentic Mormon convictions. And may you avoid both smelly traveling companions and the Rent soundtrack.

Thank You, 31 Years Later

This past month I celebrated my thirty-first birthday, and in addition to very much enjoying my friend-sponsored surprise party (where my lovely friends contributed to my much needed mental tidy by burning things that upset me in a big big bonfire), I enjoyed some free introspection time. This year, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my birth mother. Usually, a few days after my birthday, I remember that she is out there somewhere, and surmise that she was probably trying to deal with a very difficult day. This year, however, I thought about her quite a bit on my birthday and thought that although I have no strong desire to actually try to find her (as I’m a fiercely devoted member of the quirky but loving Hall family) I did want to say thank you. So here is my thank you note:

Dear Birth Mother,

I don’t remember meeting you, although I’m sure that I made quite an impression on you 31 years ago. I know it must have been hard to make the decision to put me up for adoption. But I wanted you to know that I consider it to be the most admirable selfless act that I can imagine. My parents are amazing, supportive, loving people, and they raised me in a stable, spiritual home, along with my older brother. They aren’t rich, but they had the financial stability to support me and encourage my education. They also are happy, well-adjusted people, who raised me to be practical and strong–but still call me princess. I am so grateful that I was raised in that home, and I know that you made it possible. I imagine that you were pretty young when I was born, and I also imagine you realized you couldn’t give me everything you wanted to yourself, so you shared me with people who could. I like to think that you passed on to me the ability to make mature selfless decisions, because that is something that I admire about you, and am striving to develop myself.

I also want to thank you for not having an abortion. I always thought it was ironic that I was born exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. I know that you legally had the choice to terminate your pregnancy, but you chose not to. I hope you don’t regret that decision. I feel so fortunate to be alive. I love my life. I love what I’ve done with it, and I cherish the fact that I’ve been so blessed.

Please don’t worry about me. I know that there are still people who are wary of adoption. I remember reading billboards for mental hospitals in Utah that specialized in “drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, and adopted children.” I always thought that was pretty ridiculous, and being the spunky girl I am, make fun of those signs and attitudes regularly. Please don’t spend time anguishing over whether or not you did the right thing. I know you were inspired to allow my parents to adopt me, and I’m so grateful that you followed that inspiration. I really hope that you have found peace with your decision, and I want you to know that I wish you all the best in life. You certainly deserve to experience the same kind of happiness you’ve given me.

With much respect,


Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

Not content to wait until actual mid-life to have a mid-life crisis, I’ve decided to over-achieve in this area and have them every 10 years. If it’s good enough for the U.S. census, it’s good enough for me.

Let me sum up me in a few stark words: went to law school, worked in a law firm, worked at an international organization, went back to law firm, hated said work with a fiery passion–usually reserved for sin and injustice, am now unemployed, am now looking for jobs for which I am apparently not qualified, self-doubt and crazy schemes are hatching simultaneously. (Well, that first part was more descriptive, and the last part more mid-life crisis-ish.)

Here’s the thing. I think I’m going back to school. I, already over-educated and debt-laden, am seriously considering returning to get a Master’s degree in International Affairs/Security Studies, with the goal of an eventual Ph.d. nascently forming. Now, I’m not so crazy that I’m going to go to school full time. This will be strictly a night thing that will hopefully correspond to and complement the fascinating day job that I plan to have in the very near future–please God, the very near future…

So here are the existential questions: Who am I? Am I the gal who will not be happy with my career until I’m doing exactly the kind of work that fascinates me, and moreover will not be happy unless I can link my job directly to being socially beneficial? (Not in a “I’m helping the economy kind of way” but in a “I want to actually be writing the foreign policy” kind of way.) In law school I didn’t think that those things mattered to me, now I know they are essential. Is that selfish? Millions of people simply exist by doing jobs that they don’t necessarily like, but that pay the bills. Why should I be different? Because I have the luxury to do so? I’m not married, I’m not supporting children, therefore my happiness is paramount? Or should I be looking at this more in a law of consecration kind of way? I should develop whatever meager talents I’ve been given to the highest degree possible as a way of benefitting others.

Where did I come from? Well, educationally, and most recently, law school. My inspiration to “go for it” and get an ivy league education was much stronger than my inspiration to serve a mission. I knew that I should go to law school, mostly for that “law of consecration” reason mentioned above…yet, it turns out that was more of a stepping stone rather than an end. Am I turning my back on that inspiration? Rejecting it? Or is this new career plan, complete with the resulting financial and time cost, a refining of my original trajectory–a honing, rather than a correction? Further, I love being in school. Again, am I being selfish because I’m having a difficult time right now, and want the same kind of happiness that I remember from undergrad and law school? Partly, yes. I miss that kind of structured learning. I miss the atmosphere.

Where am I going? (Besides to the temple…for some serious introspection…) Apparently, back to school. Apparently to a place where I’m over-educated and under-financed. (Incidentally, very attractive traits to the single Mormon male population…) But also, apparently to a place where I’m happier, apparently to a place where I’m more qualified for jobs that I actually want (government and eventually teaching), and apparently a place where I’m finally satisfied with my career choices–in a great big existential sleep-at-night-and-look-at-myself-in-the-mirror-in-the-morning kind of way.

Etiquette of Conference Viewing

So, apparently my friend thought it was rude when I tested the length of the scarf I was crocheting during the closing prayer in conference today. Which made me wonder, really, what proper t.v. prayer behavior is, which started me questioning all of my little conference rituals. So, in the style of the Mormon Miss Manners, I present to you: Conference Etiquette.

1. T.V. prayers are real prayers, but require less rigid behavior. Do keep your eyes open and move, but only while sitting down. Do not get up to get a snack. Do not talk. Do not mute the prayer and fight with your family. Do not make other people laugh by pulling faces. Do check your scarf length.

2. Do not sing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Do make fun of the one poor black man that they keep focusing on, and do give the camera men suggestions on whom to focus. Preferrably the man who is yawning, or the woman who forgot the words.

3. Do sing loudly during the rest hymn. Do ignore the looks of people around you–because your enthusiasm outstrips your talent. Do laugh at the primary children when they sing “gird up your loins” during Come Come Ye Saints.

4. Do enthusiastically raise your hand to sustain the general authorities. Do make wildly speculative comments about why certain people were released.

5. Do not say rude things about the general authorities. But do make affectionate comments like “oh he’s so cute” and “he looks better a little chunky.”

6. Do not fall asleep during morning conference. It is permissible to fall asleep during afternoon conference, but only accidentally. Do not snore.

7. Do work on handiwork during conference. Do vocally admire your friends’ handiwork. Do secretly think that yours is better. Do ignore talks about pride.

8. Do not ignore the other talks. Do feel guilty. Do start REGULAR scripture study for at least a week, and do go buy a journal with every intention of writing in it. Do dust it occasionally.

I Broke an Unwritten Mormon Rule….Credibility Possibly Shot Forever

I have to say, I’m approaching the Sabbath with a bitter- sweet kind of feeling. Tomorrow I’m getting released from being the gospel doctrine teacher. I always pictured myself as the “smile and agree to serve” kind of gal….no matter if it was nursery, homemaking, or ward librarian. But when I got called into chat with the first counselor a couple of weeks ago, he told me that they had another calling in mind for me and what did I think about being released from teaching gospel doctrine. I started crying. Yep. Right there in the coat closet we were meeting in. I sort of plastered on a fake smile and said “I’m happy to serve wherever I’m needed” and made a beeline for the bathroom where the sobbing started in earnest. Let’s just say I’m embarrassed. About the whole crying in the bathroom thing….oh and crying in the car in the parking lot, oh, and the choking up when talking with the person who I’m now replacing in my new calling. I’m even more embarrassed that this episode has resulted in the entire bishopric looking at me with soft, kind eyes and patting my arm whenever we talk.

So I needed to figure out why I was being such a big baby–because clearly this behavior cannot continue. And I have thought of a few reasons, but the ultimate one is that I love teaching gospel doctrine. It is the most spiritually fulfilling calling I’ve ever had. I love being the one that waits for the inspiration to pick out the topics that need to be discussed. I love presenting ideas in an unusual way and seeing people get excited in Sunday School. I love being forced to systematically study the scriptures. I love that I’ve taught for long enough that themes have started to emerge. Like every once in a while we have a “symbolism is fun” lesson, or a “scriptures as literature” lesson, and the class really digs it. I love that even though I’m naturally shy, I’ve been forced to get to know large numbers of people in my calling. Mostly, I love that I’ve had a spiritual renaissance that tracks with my teaching gospel doctrine ever since I graduated from law school. (A particularly tumultuous few years for me spiritually…) Finally, I’m currently going through some of the most seriously difficult few months I’ve ever faced in my life, and I love having the familiarity of a calling that I am comfortable and confident in.

Which is probably why I’m being released–comfort and confidence are not necessarily the adjectives related to spiritual growth. Apparently, I’ve had this calling longer than anyone else in the ward has had his/her calling, including the bishop. I don’t think we get passes from necessary change just because we’re happy where we are, or just because we think we need continuity, or just because we cry in front of people in power. So tomorrow will be bitter, because I’m being released, then teaching my last lesson. But also tomorrow will be sweet, because I’m being trusted to do something else. And sweet because I’m taking with me all my spiritual growth from the past few years. And sweet, because I’m not leaving the gospel behind, I’m just reapplying it. Kind of like mascara after a good cry…

I thought it was Dynamite!

So I went to Napoleon Dynamite with a friend last night. For the uninitiated, it’s an independent film made by several BYU grads. They entered it into Sundance, where it was apparently wildly popular. A movie studio bought it, and now it is being slowly rolled out on the limited release model. It’s been in D.C. for a couple of months now, and is still gaining momentum. (Full house Saturday night.)

The plot you ask? Well, imagine your most misanthropic stage of adolescence–add in a red ‘fro, a permanent slack-jawed look, moon-boots, living in Preston Idaho, a dysfunctional family, and a strange love of tater-tots, and voila, our protaganist Napoleon. I didn’t really explain the plot, because there isn’t much of one. It’s mainly a series of vignettes, all leading up to a school election and the funniest dance scene you’ve ever seen in the movies….really. There are no overt Mormon references, but lots of markers: asking your date to the dance through elaborate passive schemes, modest prom dresses, boondoggle at scout camp, your mother forcing you to date the loser kid, future farmers of America, really big bangs way after they went out of style, and the fabulously colorful substitute swearing–gooooosh! frickin’! iiidiot!

I’ve seen the movie twice. The first time, a month or so ago, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in a movie. This time I took a friend who grew up in the Northeast. I had admittedly talked up the movie a little too much, and the audience was full of teenagers, who had obviously seen the movie several times, and were laughing in advance of the jokes. But really, my friend didn’t get it. This is a person with a highly developed, and wonderfully subversive sense of humor. She thought that perhaps the humor was from the clever manipulation of cultural references that she wasn’t familiar with. Ultimately, we figured out that she just found the movie depressing, and it seemed mean to laugh at the characters–dampening the humor of it.

Which makes me wonder, is “stereotyping” humor only funny if you are skewering your own culture, and is the audience then limited to members of that culture? Am I cold-hearted and unChristian for howling with laughter at the rural Mormons? Am I really cold-hearted and unChristian because I needed someone else to point out to me that it was kinda sad? The thing is, I still think the film is brilliant, but in true Mormon fashion, wonder if I should feel guilty about it…..

The Convention from BCC’s Own Intrepid Roving Reporter

Yes, the one and only true Mormon blog managed to sneak a correspondent into the RNC this past week. Yours truly spent a couple of memorable days sitting in Madison Square Garden, with press credentials around my neck, smiling politely and thinking…”whatever you do, don’t let anyone know you’re a Democrat.” I was planning on filing blow by blow descriptions of the Convention, but didn’t quite manage to become cyber-enabled in New York. (Thus explaining one reason that I’m a fake reporter instead of a real reporter). So, you’ll have to settle for my end of the week overall impressions.

1. I’m apparently easily star struck. Here’s a list of people that I stared at from an embarressingly close distance: Don King, Peter Jennings, Brooks and Dunn, Some Christian Rock Band with Really Really Hot Guys (not their actual name), Sarah Evans, Larry King, George H.W. Bush, Anderson Cooper, some guy from ABC news with a fake tan, and the very best…..Triumph the Comic Insult Dog WHO WAS FILMING RIGHT BEHIND MY CHAIR!!!! Oh, and Zell Miller, which leads me to point number two….

2. Zell Miller scared me. Not the Republicans though, they loved him. Which scared me too. Here’s the story. I finagled (read, “politely asked for”) a floor pass, pushed my way to the front of the floor to watch Sarah Evans up close, and then Zell Miller started talking, so I decided to stay. And then people started shrieking like banshees all around me, and pressing in closer, and I started feeling really claustrophobic…..which probably heightened my sense of fear. But really, just his talk kind of scared me. I wanted to shout out logical phrases (like: “none of this makes sense unless you can prove a connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, which you can’t!”) refuting his reactionary rant, but that sure didn’t seem wise. So I just made my way back to the press section wishing that I had taken at least one other Democrat in my travel group–someone that could share my wide-eyed look of trepidation. Who knew that Chris Matthews would soon be my wide-eyed ally, lending some credibility to my fear….

3. Old people who are Republicans dress up in really funny hats, and you can laugh at them behind their backs, and even take their pictures, and they like it!

4. The audience reacted very differently to Cheney and Bush. Cheney was just another speaker. Didn’t register nearly as much applause as his new buddy Zell. At some points, I think the audience was just being polite in it’s reaction to Cheney. Bush, on the other hand, was a rock star– surrounded by screaming masses of old ladies in funny hats–audience chanting and waving signs as cued by the young Republicans sitting behind the stage. They LOVED his self deprecating jokes, they LOVED his smirky disses on Kerry, and they LOVED when he talked like the commander in chief. Here is something they didn’t love though, about either Bush or Cheney: domestic policy. Cheney got in about two lines. I think education and health care. Barely a smattering of polite applause. Bush hit it a little more. Again, even for the Elvis of the Republican party, barely polite applause. The Republicans were not interested in domestic policy. Nothing nada. They are counting on the traditional strength of the Republican Party–national security–and are, I suppose, hoping that people don’t dig too deeply into the logic or morality of this administration’s choices. Whether this means that the Democrats should concentrate on pointing out the rash and ultimately harmful security actions of this administration, or whether they should concentrate on the economy and domestic issues, I don’t know. But it was loud and clear what the Republicans were relying on, to the exclusion of any other issues.

5. If I wanted to rip off my dress and reveal my “pink slip” underneath (clever clever) while shouting anti-Bush slogans, I too could have been carted off by two amazingly buff security guards like the woman in the section next to me. But it didn’t so much seem worth it.

6. The convention was surprisingly negative. I heard a pundit say that they counted a TOTAL of five references to President Bush in the entire Democratic Convention. In Cheney’s speech alone, there were dozens. And many of the other speeches had the same tone. They were clearly winding up for a dirty campaign, and the audience LOVED IT. I think we’re in for a very long 60 days.

7. Mitt Romney was a disappointment–much to my surprise. He was by far, and I think to his credit, the most polite of the “bash Kerry” speakers. But, there was no fire, no electricity, no inspiration. If he was hoping to use this as his entrance into the national Republican limelight, I think it was a failure.

8. As Jen mentioned, there were policemen everywhere. But rather than seeming menacing, they were pretty much just hanging out. A couple of them cat-called my roommate and I. Which was tres amusant. I never felt threatened, though. Although, I imagine this had something to do with the fact that I was wearing press credentials, and walking in the midst of the Republican crowd. The only problem I ever had was after my friend and I went down to the Media Welcome Center to grab some dinner. We had left our picture i.d.’s up under our chairs in the arena. The security guards didn’t want to let us back in. It quickly became clear to me that they were worried that we were protestors with slogans written on our underwear, and for a brief moment I was worried I was going to have to undress in the middle of a metal detector line to prove that rather than a protestor I was just a nice Mormon girl–thereby bringing to life a recurring nightmare I’ve had since junior high. Fortunately, some sweet smiles and polite assurances that we were not protestors eventually got us back into the Convention. All in all it taught me valuable lesson. Next time I pretend to be a reporter, I shouldn’t expect to get free food out of it.

Reality TV and Mormon Dating: Outback Jack goes to my Singles’ Ward

I realize that in the company of the intellectual giants in the bloggernacle, this next confession may forever peg me as a lightweight (if my previous posts have not already pegged me as such…) I watch reality dating shows. [Read more…]

Bush enlists churchs’ support, icky suspicions ensue

This article printed in today’s Washington Post outlines the Bush/Cheney election team’s attempt to mobilize its religious base. The article outlines strategies sent to Bush supporters to help those supporters involve their congregations in the Bush campaign. The suggested “goals” include turning over membership lists to the campaign, organizing voter registration drives, and hosting partisan pot-luck dinners. [Read more…]

Oh, The Fabulous Irony

Have you all been following this story in the SL Trib?

Apparently Warren Jeffs, prophet of the FLDS church has purchased a large ranch in West Texas, hoping to create an isolated compound for him and his closest followers. [Read more…]

True Confessions

I have a confession to make. I voted for Bill Clinton. Twice. Actually, to be accurate I supported and voted for Paul Tsongas in the primary in 1992, but when he was defeated, I stepped onto the Clinton bandwagon and helped to defeat George Bush. (Again, let’s be accurate, I was voting in Utah, and so my actual vote was translated into Republican electoral votes, so I did not technically help to defeat George Bush, but, my friends, it was a psychic victory, so I claim a part in it.) This is somewhat of a sore point for my conservative family. My dad growls that I’m cancelling his votes, my mom tries not to think about it too much. My extended family thinks I’m a little bit crazy…probably because I’ve been single for just too darn long.

But I digress, here’s the point. Let me tell you what happened on election night 1992. I was sitting in the basement of T-Hall in Deseret Towers–BYU freshman dorms–full of zeal and excitement at the democratic process leading to a Democratic victory. Incidentally, I was the only one in the room that was feeling particularly excited. Doomsday predictions were coming at me from every corner, and being younger and more salty, I was ‘fessing up to my political beliefs and answering with support for the Democratic platform. I’d like to think I was being polite and calm, but frankly I can’t remember. I went back up to my dorm room when the election had been called, and found a picture of steaming dog crap on my door.

That pretty much sums up my impression of being a Democrat at BYU. Taking a lot of crap. What is it about politics that makes people resort to “discourse” that they would never otherwise engage in? What is it about being a part of an overwhelming political majority that makes it seem okay to rudely invalidate someone else’s minority-political opinion? (And I know this happens the other way around on other campuses. Some of my conservative friends really took a lot of hypocritical abuse from liberals on the Harvard Law School campus. That intolerance angers me just as much as my treatment at BYU.) Why, when we are celebrating the learning potential that free speech fosters, do we feel that silencing others is an appropriate response? Finally, someone please tell me that things are changing at BYU….

Pride Goeth and Thank Goodness for the Fall

I had one of those spiritual epiphanies last night–one of those “I’m so grateful this happened–but I wouldn’t wish for it again” moments. See, I’m going through what I like to call “Drama Queen” time–when not just one dramatic hard thing happens, but multiple dramas happen simultaneously…infusing life with rich irony.

Last night I started really examining my life, and looking at it I realize that I’ve sort of forcibly been stripped of pride. Without going into details, in addition to currently experiencing some professional “upheavals,” last night I was able to put some closure onto a personal “upheaval.” Earlier, I had been joking to some friends that I feel a sort of reckless abandon and unusual feistiness these days–I don’t care what people think of me, because I’m the gal with no pride. But sitting alone in the car, I realized that was true in a way. None of my feelings of worth are being superimposed on me by the world right now. But somehow, there is this quiet peace underlying my feistiness. I think I caught a glimpse of gospel Truth. Absent the selfish clamoring, absent praise from the world, absent the trappings that denote success, our spirits are eternal, the price of our sins has been paid, and we are loved.

For perhaps the first time I understood the potential damaging power of pride. It clouds our vision, preventing an eternal perspective. It interferes with our relationship with God, because it prevents us from understanding the magnitude of the gift of life, and the gift of potential eternal life. We can overlook the importance of the people in our lives, and of the gospel in our lives, if we are focused on the achievements in our lives.

I’ve read the Book of Mormon enough to know that I will probably experience this cycle again–and it’s a lesson that I’ll need to be reminded of my entire life. However, glimpsing some Truth and remembering that peace comes from God is the blessing I need right now–and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

Inspiration in Hollywood? I’m aghast!

One year in law school I went home to Utah for spring break. Over the weekend I saw three movies. The Testaments at Temple Square, God’s Army in the theater and The Mission on video. How did they stack up?

I’ve never been able to stomach a second viewing of The Testaments–that movie sets my teeth on edge. I’m always really uncomfortable with fictionalizing the scriptures, but doing it with cartoonish villains who are crushed by walls and that annoying monkey that refused to die was just sad and embarrassing. I know that I should have focused on the scenes with the Savior, but the feeling that I was watching live action Disney was phenomenally distracting. Final word? ugghh

God’s Army was a good flick–started an interesting cultural phenomenon–but it’s quality was somewhat tempered by the awful cheesy ending. I have it on video but hardly ever actually watch it. Over all? ehhh.

The Mission is now one of my favorite movies. I think that the story it tells about the power of unconditional love and the possibility for redemption is amazing, touching, and wonderfully executed. Not to mention the questions it raises about the morality of resistance. The performances are superb, and the visuals are exceptional. My verdict? Incredibly inspiring film.

So let’s ignore, for a moment if possible, most of the insipid garbage that comes out of Hollywood. I’d like to know which *mainstream* movies you find inspiring and why.

Perpetually Blessed

I was reading the SL Tribune article yesterday on the passing of Sister Hinckley. The last paragraph read something like “In lieu of sending flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the church’s Perpetual Education Fund.” That struck a chord. We’re all familiar with the custom of suggesting donations–usually a charity very close to the hearts of the family…the lung association for lung cancer victims, or the children’s hospital for families whose children were treated there. The Prophet and his family chose the Perpetual Education Fund, and I was again reminded how much that program resonates with me.

We’ve been writing about prophecy and the role of a prophet or of the Prophet. That prompted some scripture study last night, and I came across the Bible Dictionary entry titled “prophet.” The message was not centered on foretelling, rather on just telling. Inspired exhortation. Can we find a better example of inspired exhortation, of inspired leadership, than the Perpetual Education Fund?

1. We are an internationally minded people. For many of us, our mission service has cemented a love for another culture into our lives. Even those who didn’t serve a foreign mission feel the pulse of the church and feel concern over our brothers and sisters who are faithful and yet struggling temporally. Previous to the institution of the PEF, I heard so many people wondering what they could do to help, and feeling that whatever help they gave was on such a small scale that while rewarding, it was also frustrating. More commonly, we wished to give, but didn’t search for the means to do it.

2. The international church is growing at such a fast rate, particularly in poorer areas of the world. Educated, financially stable leaders are needed to fulfill lay-clergy responsibilities. The gospel helps create focused, goal-oriented individuals…but those same people are trapped in cycles of poverty. In a chuch devoted to consecrating extra to the good of the kingdom, some wealth redistribution seemed to be in order–but the mechanism had to be effective and (practically speaking) accepted.

3. We are history minded. Our own pasts and our families’ pasts resonate with us. President Hinckley recognized the dynamic described above and found a way to tap into our own pioneer heritage, using our passion for our history to channel our love for our brothers and sisters. Inspired exhortation, and inspired leadership. I know that church members I’m acquainted with LOVE this program. I’m touched that the Prophet and his family love it as well.

Perhaps this is a month that we could be particularly focused on the PEF when making our offerings?

Please No, Not Utah

I was surfing on one of my favorite websites a couple of days ago, a snarky television commentary called, and noticed a poll on the sidebar. Apparently filming of MTV’s reality show “Real World” has recently shut down in Philadelphia due to union issues, and they are contemplating moving to a different city. The folks at TWoP were polling their readers to see which city readers thought should host the next Real World. One of several choices was Salt Lake City. I naturally voted for Salt Lake, because hey, I’m from Salt Lake, and I have hometown loyalty. Once I voted, I could see the results, and Salt Lake was far and away the leader. Twenty-one per cent at that point. I thought it was funny and moved on. I just went back and saw that Salt Lake is still ahead with twenty per cent of the votes. My reaction? Amusement combined with a gnawing feeling of dread. I’ve made a decision to post a public service announcement.
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Responses to de facto Gender Discrimination

Let me start this post by acknowledging that my assertions are anecdotal, but also note that I know a lot of women in the church. I talk to a lot of women. I’ve lived in several wards of differing personality, and one commonality I’ve found is that most women do not consider themselves discriminated against by the church. They’re at peace with the Priesthood issues, and are too busy worrying about their own spiritual progress to get caught up in gender angst. Like most of my friends, I’m bemused by outsiders who bemoan the role of women in the church. We choose to be members, and understand our decision. So, I’m not making an argument of any official gender discrimination, I personally don’t think that is the relevant inquiry.
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