Domestic Violence and Coronavirus

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Laura Brignone Bhagwat is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley where she studies technology and domestic violence.  Her dissertation tracks a public health intervention in hospital emergency rooms meant to prevent intimate partner homicide.

Imagine yourself scared. Maybe you’re scared for your life; you’re definitely scared for your health and wellbeing. You’re probably scared for those around you, and scared for what your future holds. Imagine yourself terrified to go to the doctor, unable to secure your financial wellbeing. It probably isn’t that hard to do, as we’re all living in the age of the coronavirus.

Now, imagine that this coronavirus-like being lives in your house. [Read more…]

What is the right level of panic for the new coronavirus pandemic?

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Rachel H. DeMeester, MPH, a public health expert and Latter-day Saint living in the Seattle area.

Living in Washington state and being a public health professional, Covid-19 is on my mind almost constantly, but really, there are few places it hasn’t touched. Public health’s greatest challenge is giving recommendations that don’t induce panic but also aren’t ignored. That clearly has failed so far as people hoard toilet paper (irrational) and masks (ineffective since healthcare workers need them) and in many cases ignore pleas to spread out. Do we know everything we need to know about the virus? No. Do we know enough to act? Absolutely. No matter how independent we feel we are, we all have some level of social contact and therefore a personal stake and responsibility in Covid-19. Those who believe in God receive an extra reminder that we are all God’s children and are expected to care for each other as such. We should be concerned—not panicked—enough to act. [Read more…]

Mixed-Orientation Religion: A Cautionary Tale

Published anonomously

This is confusing, but maybe it is the best place to begin. . . .

When I was a sophomore at BYU, I had a peculiar run in with the Honor Code Office regarding LGBTQ students and behavior.  It was 1989, and I was playing viola in the orchestra pit for an on-campus production of the Tragedy of Carmen. Given common artistic temperaments, a mixed group of singers, dancers and musicians would bond by going to Denny’s after rehearsals and hosting Sunday dinners together. A line from the opera–“You’re mine, daughter of Satan”– would often be belted out ironically when I made my entrance to any one of our shared gatherings. 

[Read more…]

Nowhere to Go

A guest post from Jo Bird. Jo is an American expat living in Shanghai with her husband and five children. She has previously lived in NYC and London but grew up in Boise, Idaho. Her experiences living abroad have given her a richer understanding of relationships and community.

Each morning I wake when the hazy Shanghai sun comes through my linen curtains. There is nowhere to go, nothing to be late for. There is no bus coming, no yoga class, no after-school clubs or piano lessons. I roll on my back and think only about if I’m going to go for a run. I don’t have to worry about whether lunch accounts need to be topped up or permission slips need to be signed. I decide a run sounds good and as I change my clothes my husband Richard rolls out of bed to wake the kids.

Three weeks ago Richard and I flew with our five kids to the Philippines for a Lunar New Year vacation. Each day during our stay in paradise, news about the coronavirus escalated fear and panic, and we received word that schools were closing, church was cancelled and the official holiday was extended. By our last day I found myself sitting on the edge of a canopied four-poster bed in a heated discussion with Richard about what we should do. My instincts told me to return home to Shanghai, but there were concerns with that plan and Richard was worried I wasn’t giving them adequate consideration. Will our access to healthcare be compromised? What will our options be for leaving China if the situation gets worse? [Read more…]

Mental Illness, Discipleship, and Mourning with Those that Mourn

img_9464Breanne loves hiking and biking and traveling, and never expected to share the dark secrets of her struggle with mental illness with the world. But after nearly two years of promptings, she finally gave a talk in sacrament meeting in her ward about it. So many people requested a copy that she realized it might also be helpful to others outside of her ward. The text below is adapted from that talk.

When I was growing up, King Benjamin’s exhortation to “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God,” who are “blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual,” confused me. I did everything I could to keep the commandments of God, but I didn’t feel happy or blessed. My state of unhappiness seemed like a permanent condition, with only fleeting moments of happiness. I didn’t know then that my family’s long history of genetic depression had also afflicted me. I didn’t even know that my family had a long history of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. It was simply not talked about back then. 

We don’t even talk about mental illness much now. But today, I’d like to change that, even if just for a minute. [Read more…]

The Tear in the Narrative

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Daniel Chaffin is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Nebraska Kearney. He is a former bishop and loves backpacking, pickleball and is an aspiring foodie.

It was the day of my dissertation defense. I dressed in my best suit and strode into the Brick University Building early in the morning. I have always been an above average student – not remarkable, but above average and I felt cautiously optimistic. I had done my homework and prepared strategically. I sent multiple drafts of the dissertation proposal to my chair and my final draft to my committee, refined and perfected my PowerPoint slides, and brought food. As it was customary for a PhD student to feed his committee, both physically and intellectually, I was not going to disappoint on either front. I brought fruit, juice, coffee; I even brought spinach quiche. While there were some technical challenges as I skyped in an offsite committee member, it was nothing I couldn’t handle. [Read more…]

When the Roads Part

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Jaxon Washburn is a friend of BCC and student at Arizona State University.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  -The Gospel According to Matthew

Every so often, I experience a combination of impressions and emotions that swirl in such a way to produce a distinct state of mind, but I feel unable to describe them with a single word. Sonder falls in this category. [Read more…]

Parenting, faith and vomit

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Rachel Allred lives in California and loves her husband, her two young kids, and ice cream (not necessarily in that order).  She generally tries to make the world a more empathetic place.

I read Carolyn’s post on being terrified about having kids at 4am.  I turned to BCC to help me stay awake just over halfway through my two-year-old’s five-hour vomiting marathon (20+ times). Fortunately he only woke up his baby sister twice.  I’m responding to that post in bits and pieces while I’m home with that two-year-old and missing an important work deadline.* [Read more…]

What I Wish My Prophet Would Say

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Kenneth Merrill graduated from BYU with a degree in Philosophy and now works as a cinematographer in Los Angeles, CA. He’s married, with two boys, and in his spare time he likes to play music, rock climb, practice sleight of hand, and read/write—but mostly he just ends up staring at glowing screens.

It was a warm summer day in Long Island City, an area of Queens just across the river from Manhattan. My companion and I were on our way to an appointment in the Queens Bridge Projects when we stopped to talk to two older ladies on their way back home from the grocery store.

“Hi, I’m Elder Merrill, and we’re out here to tell people that we have a living prophet on this earth today. Would you be interested in hearing more about that?”

With frightening directness, one of the women turned to me and asked, “Oh really, a prophet? What’s he been prophesying lately?”

I probably stood slack-jawed for a decent 5 seconds before the next words tumbled uncontrollably out of my mouth:

“Drugs are bad.” [Read more…]

Christ’s Hands

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Elle Mae is a queer Mormon feminist who recently gave this talk in her ward.

In a BYU devotional by Dean Carolina Nunez titled “Loving Our Neighbors,” she said: 

Loving our neighbor requires getting close to our neighbor and giving of ourselves. In Spanish, the term for “love of neighbor” is amor al prójimo, or “love of the one who is in proximity.” The term prójimo connotes a physical closeness and personal touch that neighbor simply fails to capture for me. We follow the good Samaritan’s example not by abstractly loving from afar but by truly connecting and spending time with each other, by genuinely giving of ourselves. This is not always easy: getting close often involves sacrifice and discomfort. It can be awkward, time consuming, and emotionally draining. Surely the Samaritan had other plans for his day, but he stopped to love someone who needed him.

Genuinely giving of ourselves cannot be done just because we want to “be righteous” we have to be vulnerable enough to love those around us without a reward in mind or box to check. Opening our hearts to people is part of building Zion. Our love can’t be conditional on certain outcomes. [Read more…]

Bees, Chimps, and Returning from Missions

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Shawn Tucker is an Associate Professor at Elon University and occasional voice of bloggernacle satire

You have been on a rowing team for a short time, when, one day, a new rower shows up who might take your spot. You are not happy. You love rowing, and you are committed to doing what it takes to keep your spot. In a few weeks, your team will have its first competition. You and your team are all working hard to be the best. You want to be the best to keep your spot. Your team wants to be the best to win.

Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind, Chapter 10) uses an example like this to illustrate how humans compete in two ways. We compete on an individual level, like you against the new rower who just showed up. We compete as groups against groups, rowing team against rowing team. Haidt puts forward the idea that we evolved to do both things. When we compete with other individuals, Haidt says that we are like chimpanzees. When we compete with other groups, Haidt says that we are like bees in a hive. The success of the hive depends upon each bee working together for the good of the hive. [Read more…]

In Praise of Boring Sunday School Lessons

 

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Shawn Tucker is an Associate Professor at Elon University and occasional voice of bloggernacle satire

Imagine a ship made with millions of popsicle sticks intricately bound together with dental floss. The many rows of wooden sticks make it waterproof and seaworthy. It is not a flashy boat, but it can move forward in the water toward a destination. That boat is how I imagine the church—each popsicle stick is a member, and the members are all tied together with bonds of testimony, commitment, and love.

I describe the church in this manner to do something perhaps unexpected—to praise boring Sunday School lessons. [Read more…]

The Meetinghouse and the Temple

Michael Haycock has a bachelor’s from Yale and a master’s in religion from Claremont Graduate University.  He currently serves as the Ecumenical/Christian Life Coordinator at Georgetown.  Views are, of course, his own.

LDS theology is like the double helix of DNA, unzipped:  it has two parallel strands that circle around each other, but which rarely connect. 

DNA

On one strand rests the Meetinghouse, with much of the Christianity we received through scripture ancient and modern and which we share with much of Christendom. 

On the other is the Temple, the divine anthropology of the eternal family, and eternal progression, which we hold unique among Christian faiths. [1]

I am convinced that much of the theological friction within the LDS Church is born of the gaps between these two theological strands, amplified by official near-silence on how to bind them together. [Read more…]

Practicing What We Preach: Ministering Charity Globally

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Today’s Guest Post comes from Dr. Warner Woodworth. He is a Global Social Entrepreneur and Professor Emeritus of the Department of Management at the Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University where he designed and taught the first U.S. courses in Microcredit and Social Entrepreneurship.

Did you enjoy General Conference in October? Reflecting back today, I feel more strongly than ever that Conference was a blessing to me, and I hope my friends within and beyond the LDS Church had similar experiences.

In the weeks before and since Conference I’ve labored among the poor, refugees and the disenfranchised in the Middle East, Croatia, upstate New York, Romania, Native American reservations, and just returned two days ago from Indonesia. Abundant conference themes that stood out to me included an emphasis on faith, hope and charity. I especially was inspired by President Russell M. Nelson’s Sunday talk in the morning session as he emphasized our mission as Latter-day Saints to serve the poor and reduce human suffering. [Read more…]

The BYU-Idaho Medicaid Controversy: A View From the Ground

Kristine A is a 2004 BYU-Idaho graduate and an accountant who was preparing for grad school to be a Mormon historian until 3 kids under 2 disrupted her plans. She is a Wheat and Tares blogger on hiatus, reluctantly lives in Rexburg, and is extremely online. 

Why were the LDS Church, DMBA, and BYU-Idaho in the New York Times over the weekend? The drama began, as most things do up in this neck of the woods, in the Rexburg community Facebook group. On November 11, the mother of a student posted that her son had been told Idaho Medicaid no longer counted as adequate insurance for the mandatory insurance coverage rule and that he’d be charged for the DMBA student health plan. Most people didn’t believe the claim from the student’s mother, but by the end of the day a student had posted a copy of the waiver her husband had picked up at the school that confirmed the rumor. When the husband picked up the form the employees at the health center told him the decision was from SLC and would be applying to all CES schools. Other students throughout the day contacted the Student Health Center (SHC) and were told the decision was from the Church Board of Education.

[Read more…]

What Family History Means to People Like Me

Michelle Franzoni Thorley’s work focuses on the ancestral power to heal. She is a self-taught artist who has claimed power through embracing her Mexican-American heritage and her experiences as a LDS woman artist. Her work has been displayed at the Writ and Vision gallery, LDS Church history museum, Abravanel hall and the Springville art museum. She spoke at the Center for Latter-day Saint Art in New York City in June 2019 and at BYU family history conference in Provo Utah in October 2019. She is passionate about plants, family history, and the stories of women. Her work and words can be found on Instagram at @flora_familiar. She lives in Utah, with her spouse and three young children.

Michelle Franzoni Thorley “Family History and Temple Work”

My name is Michelle. I am a Mexican-American artist who loves genealogical healing, which is also known as family history.

I grew up as a minority in my community. My parents were divorced, I lived under the poverty level, and my hair and skin were different than all the other kids. I had a hard time dealing with a lot of sadness. I now recognize that some of the sadness I carried was generational trauma, and I have healed a lot of that pain through therapy, family history, and temple work. 

[Read more…]

Why Write (and Read!) about Church History Women?

Mcarthur Krishna is an author, artist, and friend. She, along with Bethany Brady Spalding, is the author of the Girls Who Choose God series of books.

So, the church history department conducted a survey a few years ago and asked members to name five women from church history. (No, listing “Sister Smith” five times doesn’t count.) Not surprisingly, the vast majority of members could not. Why isn’t this a surprise to me? Because neither could I! [Read more…]

Praying to Jesus at Yoga (A Very Tardy Tribute To Jana Reiss)

Rebbie Brassfield, the author of this guest post, is a frequent guest-blogger at BCC and a copywriter living in Southern California. In 2012 she created the now-emeritus website Normons.com to try to prove how normal Mormons are (lol). Currently you’ll find her blogging here.     

Jana Reiss’s 2011 memoir Flunking Sainthood spawned a thousand imitation experiments on religion. Mine took me recently to yoga.  

I would never have gotten into yoga were it not for a friend from church. At first I thought she was nuts — she’d make comments in our Singles Ward Relief Society about how faith was like Aparigraha (roughly translated as the yogic principle of ‘letting go’) and I would cringe just a bit. Her comments were interesting, but it felt like the handbook might frown upon such pagan ideas being shared at church.

[Read more…]

“You have been scheduled . . .”

Emily Jensen is a former BCC permablogger and friend of the blog.

“You have been scheduled to meet with XXXXX XXX for a meeting Tuesday June 18th at 7 p.m. for your ministering interview.”

“Your family has been scheduled to clean the church on Saturday, June 22nd at 8 a.m. Please meet with the XXXX family up at the church.”

Ok, hopefully this is only happening in my ward, but in case it’s not, let’s talk about the new, and dare I say, rude habit of scheduling people to do things in the church without first asking if they are even available. [Read more…]

What I Know

Natalie Brown is a former BCC permablogger and friend of the blog. She is returning to graduate school this fall to write a dissertation on nineteenth-century writers’ experiences with home loss and displacement. 

What I Know: The Power of Narrower Testimonies

As I sat down to pen my father’s eulogy, I drew a blank. How could I say anything that could adequately capture him, bring me solace and serve the needs of a community that was mourning? Words didn’t come, and so I prayed that the Spirit would tell me what to say. My answer came later that night as I listened to family tell stories of my father. Each of us saw a part of him: the spouse, the parent, the colleague, the friend. No single person saw the whole. This is what I realized: No one can tell the story of someone else’s life. It’s an impossible task, because we carry only our own sets of experiences. Each of our stories together, however, add up to something more. If there is a silver lining to a funeral, it’s the opportunity to see those stories come together to reveal a person even larger than we know. [Read more…]

LGB Saints at Church: Some Suggestions

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Michael is from a multigenerational Latter-day Saint family but has spent the majority of his life outside of the Mormon corridor. He’s not employed by academia but looks for opportunities to scratch his academic itch.

This is a follow-up post to his description of cultural challenges facing the LGB community within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As explained in the first post, the “T” is omitted intentionally out of respect for differences in transgender experience.

How can local Latter-day Saints and their leaders help to make our wards and stakes places of refuge, love, and sanctification for LGB Saints?

Based on my observations, I offer a few suggestions.  I acknowledge, with deepest gratitude, my indebtedness to Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic for her unique perspective and thoughts on LGB people in Catholicism.  In addition, please note that I think many of the issues Latter-day Saints have with LGB Saints can be addressed by rethinking the place of single people in the Church, regardless of their sexual orientation.  [Read more…]

LGB Saints at Church: Some Challenges

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Michael is from a multigenerational Latter-day Saint family but has spent the majority of his life outside of the Mormon corridor. He’s not employed by academia but looks for opportunities to scratch his academic itch.

PREFACE

When the Church retracted the November 2015 set of LGB-related Church policies I felt relief, like taking a breath of air after too much time underwater.  As the news sunk in, one common reaction I saw was would-be allies asking what everyday Latter-day Saints could do to make their LGBT brothers and sisters feel more welcome.

Most of the proffered answers to that question focused on changing doctrine, policy, and teachings.  That is not my answer — or at least, not my starting point.  I intend to adapt the question Neylan McBaine poses in Women at Church: “accepting the doctrines and policies we have in place in the Church today, how can we help improve [LGB]-cooperative practices on the local level so as to relieve unnecessary tensions caused by cultural or historically normative practices?” [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Conclusion

Ben Hertzberg concludes our symposium by responding to the previous three reviews. Benjamin Hertzberg is a fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He lives and works in Northern Virginia.

Read the reviews by Michael Austin, Simone Chambers, and Russell Arben Fox

[Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 3

Our third review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Russell Arben Fox, BCC permablogger and professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita, KS. Read the previous reviews here and here.

[Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 2

Our second review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Simone Chambers, professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine. Read the first review here. [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 1

Ben Hertzberg, an old friend of By Common Consent, has generously agreed to participate in a symposium about his book, published late in 2018, Chains of Persuasion: A Framework for Religion in Democracy. It provides a fascinating, dense, and serious theoretical analysis of how religious believers (he focuses on Mormons and Muslims in particular, but his arguments are applicable to all) can, and should, argue about morality in a pluralistic democracy like the United States. This symposium–which will run through the blog this week–will consist for three short reviews of the book, after which Ben will respond. The first review is provided by Michael Austin, a BCC permablogger and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. [Read more…]

Book Review—Jana Riess, The Next Mormons

41VNW2NVATLRichelle Wilson is a PhD student in Scandinavian studies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is a talk producer at community radio station WORT 89.9 FM and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff.

When I first heard Jana Riess was undertaking research about Millennial Mormons, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for this book to be released. Given the heightened sense of generational divide in America right now, thanks in no small part to deepening political polarization and an ongoing series of culture wars run amok, research like this is vital for the health of our communities. 

The Next Mormons doesn’t disappoint. Riess writes in a clear, engaging style that is approachable to non-specialists and folks who don’t know much about Mormonism. In spite of its seemingly niche topic, I hope this book receives a wider audience since Riess’s findings are important and have broader implications for religion in 21st-century America. [Read more…]

I Am Worried about Jessica.

Lona Gynt is a friend of BCC.  She is a Latter-day Saint and works as a physician in the Eastern United States and also shares poetry and other comment in her blog “Scattered thoughts made a little more random” at lonagynt.wordpress.com.  She is a transgender woman who writes under  a pseudonym for the time being.

I am worried about Jessica.

Jessica is not her real name, but this can get confusing since she does not consider her legal birth name to be her real name either.

I met Jessica through my friend Sophia.  Like me, Sophia is a transgender woman, but we do have some key differences. I am a lifelong Latter-day Saint.  I have not openly transitioned socially to a female role, even though I have been treated with female hormones for many years to medically transition my body to match my internal identity and to combat overpowering gender dysphoria.  Sophia lives in Europe, she is not Latter-day Saint, she has transitioned medically and socially to the female gender.  She is a compassionate and empathetic person, so I paid attention when she wrote me the following:

[Read more…]

Healing through Baptisms

59942741_10100712620455120_868906746230341632_nJennifer Roach is a mental health therapist who lives with her family in the suburbs of Seattle. She converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2019.

I get touched in the Temple. A lot.

I’m a new convert. Baptized 4 months ago. But I am no stranger to faith. I grew up in the mainstream Christian church.  I loved being in church. I was there every time the doors were open, which was not nearly enough for me. I loved the Bible, sermons, singing. I gave my entire life to all of it. Most of the jobs I have had as an adult were in mainstream Churches. My undergraduate degree is from a Christian college, followed by a Masters in Divinity, and then another master’s in counseling. I am a religious, church-going woman to my core.

But I was also completely gutted at church. [Read more…]

On Honor, Success, and Early Return Missionaries

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Jaxon Washburn is a friend of BCC who recently returned from a mission in Armenia.

My name used to be Elder Washburn.

I returned home on May 17th, after returning from my service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Armenia. My mission was eight months long.  Less than a month ago, I had no intentions of coming home. God, I suppose, intended otherwise, and I am doing my best to sort out the pieces.

I loved my mission. To be on a mission is to ground oneself in paradox in many respects. Such was my experience, at least. My mission constituted of a series of contrasts: there were moments where I felt closer to God than I ever had before, and moments where I never felt more spiritually detached. I lived as selflessly as I could, and because of that, I have never been more critically self-aware of all my own flaws and shortcomings. This, the biggest challenge of my life, brought with it the most significant amount of growth, refinement, and development. My mission meant the world to me; it has since my teenage years, when I decided I wanted to serve. To part with it was heartbreaking at best, and I am still working to reconcile my return with the future course of my life. [Read more…]