Suffering, Trigger Warnings, and Human Harm

I read an article  many years ago that explained how people, especially women, tend to show empathy, compassion, and build friendships by sharing similar experiences in storytelling. For instance, a woman may share the story of her difficult childbirth. A listening woman may share her own similar story to build on common ground and display empathy, showing that she understands because she had a similar experience. However, personal experience has proven that this method of relationship building can backfire. A person may assume instead that the second storyteller is telling their own story to draw attention to themselves and away from the first storyteller, or to illustrate that their experience was worse—implying that the first storyteller  should not complain. Or, accuse the other person of being a “one upper” of the worst possible kind.

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I have seen hell, and Jesus won’t save us from it

I spent some time this summer interviewing prostitutes, almost all of whom had been victims of human trafficking at some point, usually sold into the sex trade in their early teens. In the process, I sat in a room with a mother who sold her own daughters when they were eleven. [Read more…]

Solving the Problem of Child Hunger


By Common Consent first promoted the efforts of Liahona Children’s Foundation to solve the problem of child hunger in developing countries in 2011. In this ongoing fight, you are invited to a Liahona Children’s Foundation’s Hunger fireside or banquet (or both) in your area to raise funds to feed starving families. Meet representatives from participating stakes from Peru, Guatemala, Cambodia and Ecuador while enjoying  great  food, dance and culture. See details below.

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Dichotomy of My Faith

Trigger Warning: the following post contains frank discussion of childhood trauma induced by another and the aftermath. This is a trigger warning as well as general warning to those who may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter.

Edgar-Degas-Blue-Dancers-15496.jpg_thumbI was raped and sexually abused by a next door neighbor as a very young child. He threatened to kill me and my family if I told. I say this only to put this post into the context of my lived experience.

The problem with chewed gum, worn shoes, licked cupcakes, crushed roses and sticky candy (none of these lessons I’ve ever actually been taught) have been discussed enough here,  here,  here,   here, herehere,  here, here,  lots of times here,  here and a million other places. These lessons are terrible in their own right and hurt women and girls in real ways. However I reject the notion that without these lessons rape victims would feel a sense of self and worth and cry out, fight back, and be whole.

Little girls in Bangladesh feel worthless and unwanted after rape without lessons of chewed gum, licked cupcakes and Jesus. In a matter of moments rape sucks every drop of self-will out of you. In that moment of compulsion, God granted self-determination no longer exists. Your body is beholden to the violence and lust of another. There is nothing you can do and it changes you forever. You wonder if you have any choices at all. You wonder if you will ever be able to act—or will only be acted upon, dependant on the mercy of merciless.

You replay it over and over and try to stop it, to fix it. You can’t, but you keep trying. You wonder why God let it happen, and you are told it’s because of agency-and you pretend you still have yours. The truth is religion can be very harmful. My own religion can be very harmful. [Read more…]

Using the Youth Sunday School Curriculum to Train Future Missionaries

I am happy to introduce a new monthly youth Sunday school series at BCC: adapting the youth Sunday school curriculum to train future missionaries.

In my own ward I’m fortunate to teach 17-18 year-olds. Some of them already have turned in their mission papers and are awaiting calls. Others are working on their papers. The Sunday school curriculum adapts itself easily to teaching the youth how to share the gospel both with investigators in a formal setting and with friends. [Read more…]

Truth for Our Times

Valerie Hudson’s article in the April Ensign, Equal Partnership in Marriage, is a contemporary approach to the workings and doctrine of Mormon marriage. While strikingly different in thesis, it is just as strikingly similar to Brent Barlow’s article published in the Ensign 40 years ago, Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home.

While the theses of these articles are in opposition to one another, both use the same rhetorical techniques to support their ideas.  Hudson claims it is eternal doctrine that marriage partners are to be equals, while Barlow claims it is eternal doctrine for the father to rule in the home.

Arguably the ideas of both of these articles could be examined independently (Barlow’s has been examined here), or jointly (two versions of chicken patriarchy playing chicken); however the purpose of this post is to show how both views use truth claims and scripture to support opposing ideas in a shift from patriarchal marriage toward marital equality. [Read more…]

A Mutual Respect

Marital relationships are not always easy, nor are they always difficult.



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The Implications of Encouraging Early Marriage in a Global Church

This is the first of a two part response to Elaine Dalton’s recent BYU Devotional speech.

Globally, early marriage is inextricably linked to development and human rights concerns. I believe that the words of a general officer of our worldwide church should be considered from a worldwide perspective. In this light, some of her conclusions are troubling. [Read more…]

A Poll: I went on a mission because….

There are four polls below:
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Taking an Analogy Too Far: New Testament Stories edition

Taken from chapter 40, The Good Shepherd:

A shepherd takes care of his sheep. He helps them find food and water. he does not let them get lost or hurt. He knows them and he loves them and would give his life to save them.


God is Not a Puppeteer

Seeing my son wheeled out of a complicated emergency surgery and intubated broke me. The nurses in the pediatric intensive care unit tried to assure us that intubation was hard for every parent, and that kids bounce back. It would be OK.

But it wasn’t.

My husband and I watched as child after child came and went from the PICU with ailments that seemed far worse than my own son’s, but drug-resistant pneumonia was killing him.  His lungs looked like Swiss cheese. When the first chest tube draining puss was removed, air leaked into his chest cavity causing a pocket of his skin to breathe up and down like something out of an alien movie. Sometimes air would hiss out from beneath his bandages. His blood was frequently being tested to see if his white blood cell count was beginning to go down, or at least not going up. X-ray machines were drug to his bed at least twice-a-day.  After endless complications, the head of pediatric surgery took us in a small room to have a heart-to-heart. [Read more…]

Mormon Blogging and the Good Ole Boys’ Club

In September 2006 NPR ran a story on a study of numbers of women in academia (or lack thereof), particularly science. Maria Zuber,   commenting on the study, made good points that I think are also pertinent to the structure of the Bloggernacle and the conversations we have. Firstly, the tendency in academia is to, as Zuber put it, “stay close to shore.” Academics tend to recognize excellence if it looks like their own work. Likewise bloggers tend to read the kind of content and join the discussions they themselves like to produce, and think those are the best conversations to have.

Patrick Mason, Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, noted the problem this creates in his survey of graduate students in the Bloggernacle.  [Read more…]

Teaching Investigators about Heavenly Parents

In November of last year The American Physical Society, a professional organization for physicists and other closely related fields, held a meeting in Salt Lake City close to temple square. Word got out quickly that there were free temple square tours and talk among the scientists of how quickly they were accosted by missionaries. Dr. B, a friend of ours, decided to go across the street and have a look. He wasn’t accosted, but walked around leisurely through the grounds and buildings, and was leaving the christus when he was finally approached. A two-hour discussion with the missionaries ensued. “I think I offended them twice,” he reported.

“How?” my husband asked.

“I told them I like to drink.”

“I don’t think that offended them.”

“One of the sisters asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And I said I think about it. I think God exists. God could even be a woman. [Read more…]

Poll: Home and Visiting Teaching edition

It’s that time of year again, vowing to lose ten pounds, read your scriptures daily, hold FHE, and become the ward’s world’s best home or visiting teacher! (poll below the fold) [Read more…]

Corpus Christi

I don’t think it’s insignificant that Mormons do not have religious holidays, even Christmas and Easter are drawn from western Christian traditions; and thus are usually celebrated by Mormons when the rest of Christendom celebrates them according to the region of the world they are in at the time of those holidays. For instance, Easter in Russia is celebrated by Mormons according to the Orthodox calendar, while Easter in Italy is celebrated by Mormons on the date accorded by Catholic tradition. Christmas in Russia slides by January 7th with little fanfare, culturally crushed by seventy years of Soviet thought. As I’ve mentioned before, while I don’t dislike Christmas, I don’t love it. What holidays offer me is what it means to be Christian as I flesh out day-to-day actions and interactions from all the celebratory traditions that can be overwhelming and at the same time feel meaningless.

In The Exponent II Winter 2011 Issue; Erica Eastley explores some of the practices of new Mormons with non-Christian backgrounds. She notes, “[The] culture of the LDS Church is heav­ily influenced by Protestant culture and practice. This isn’t surprising or nec­essarily a bad thing, but it does affect how the Church and its doctrines are received by people whose background isn’t Protestant.” [Read more…]

Twas the Morning of Finals

Twas the morning of finals, when all through the dorms
Freshmen were dressing, disguising their forms.
Sarah’s head scarf was tied round her with care,
In hopes that the boys wouldn’t notice her there.

Students filled desks, not snuggled in  beds,
While visions of straight As danced in their heads.
And Sarah in head scarf, and I in my jeggings,
Had just cleansed our brains from the sight of men’s meggings. [Read more…]


Because let’s face it, 99% of Thanksgiving is dessert!

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An Open Letter to My Son

Dear A. ,

Fourteen years ago today your father and I were married. Not much the sealer said before the ceremony has stuck with me. However one thing has stayed with me,  “Don’t fritter away your time.”

I’m proud of you. You worked really hard and saved to help buy your iPod. I notice you‘re pretty attached to it. Yesterday while inspecting it I noticed you recently added more games and other apps beyond Angry Birds. [Read more…]

Come, Join the Conversation

       In language intonation refers to the rise and fall of a speaker’s voice in the course  of a sentence or group of thoughts. In English, there are at least four identified tones. For instance, I can say “Nice to meet you,” and depending on the intonation of my voice it can come across as flirtatious, questioning, matter of fact, nonchalant or sarcastic.

Humans are used to their own speech patterns within the culture they live.  This is good because it helps us interpret the thoughts and ideas people are trying to convey. However it poses a problem cross-culturally. [Read more…]

Establishing the Relief Society, Establishing the Church

In 1995 Leah and Kharine were baptized in Moscow, Russia. Leah was from the Republic of Georgia and Kharine was from rural Armenia. Each sister returned home to her native country soon after her baptism. Leah was the first and only Georgian member; Kharine, the first in her region. Leah and Kharine’s stories aren’t that unusual to other stories from around the globe. Because I am most familiar with Russia and Eurasia, for the sake of this discussion my examples will continue to be from that region of the world.

Though the church did have a presence in Armenia, Kharine did not read the dialect of Armenian excerpts of the Book of Mormon had been translated into, and could not easily maintain contact with members in Yerevan because of distance once she returned home. The church did not (and still does not to my knowledge) have an established presence in Georgia.

As membership grow in different regions of the globe, Area Presidencies formally organize the members into a Group—kind of the pre-cursor to a Branch. It is my understanding that this entails the presence of men as priesthood holders so there can be a designated ‘Group Leader’. However new converts are most often women. Sisters living far from the organized church are isolated, and often feel lonely and less important in the church. They may not be sure of their place in the church. [Read more…]

Do you want to find someone guilty? Whom do you want to accuse?

The history of ostracism can be traced to Athenian democracy. The word ostracism comes from the Greek ostraka (from ὄστρακον), or potsherds. Pieces of broken pottery served as scraps (like paper) on which to vote. Every year Athenians had the chance to cast someone out of society for up to ten years. But instead of finding fault with someone and thus casting the penalty on them, citizens were first asked; Do you wish to find someone guilty? [Read more…]

A Simple Thought Experiment

I’m convinced religious pluralism is a good thing. When institutionalized religion has a monopoly on the faith, beliefs and practices of people in a society, unjust laws are often put into place and human rights are often curtailed. Religious ideology is sometimes unfairly marginalizing to those outside the status quo (please note the overuse of qualifiers—this isn’t a swipe at religion). As a member of a proselytizing faith, a religious tradition that I think is needed in the world, I often ponder the need for proselytizing (and indeed the commandment to proselytize) against the necessity of religious pluralism for a good and just society. I am convinced embracing and encouraging religious pluralism will not only will bring about the best outcomes for the future of our world, but will also help believers grow nearer to God as they  learn from those outside of their own religious tradition and grow in understanding of who God is, how he works, and who we are as His children. So indulge me for a moment and consider the following. [Read more…]

It’s-too-hot-to-do-anything-but-take-this-poll Poll

Ok, so I’m in Arizona. Maybe it’s not that hot where you are, but we all know you have nothing better to do. [Read more…]

Mourning with Those that Mourn in an Internet Age

I logged on to Facebook one afternoon to find my grandfather had died. A  relative made the announcement via status update. It was not the way I wanted to find out of his passing. My aunt, his daughter, had not even been told. My relative meant well, and my grandmother, not knowing what Facebook is, thought a Facebook announcement would be fine.

In the past few years I’ve noticed other faux pas in the form of status updates, wall posts and emails sent out en masse. I’m not sure what it says about our culture; our lack of reverence for the dead or more likely our misguided yet unfeigned compassion towards those who lose loved ones. News media regularly refrains from revealing the names of those who have died until all family members have been notified. This can take days, or sometimes weeks. But news travels fast in wards and neighborhoods, especially in the age of the internet. It only takes one post on someone’s wall with the word Condolences to send ripples and waves that crash down on unsuspecting loved ones. [Read more…]

When Secrecy Nullifies Sanctity

It was no small miracle in my life that the Bishop was out of town that week. My mother picked up the phone, distraught in the summer of 1978. The first counselor on the other end simply said, “You’ve called the right person. Go down to the police station.” It was no small miracle in my life that the first counselor was also a detective, specializing in crimes against children. These were not the man next door’s first offenses. I’m sure they were not his last after his short stay in prison. [Read more…]

Spiritual History

General Relief Society President recently said at Women’s Conference in regards to the upcoming manual on the history of the Relief Society,  “There are some things that have come out in that preparation that have delineated some themes for learning. It’s not so important to have a linear history in the Church, but it is important to know our spiritual heritage and history, what themes emerge in that spiritual heritage, and what the Lord wants us to accomplish.”

Is it possible to have a grasp on spiritual history without the context of linear history?

The One and Only Myth

In the early 1840s Joseph Smith proposed to Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner. Elizabeth recorded “Joseph said I was his before I came here and he said all the Devils in hell should never get me from him.”  Joseph further told her, “I was created for him
before the foundation of the Earth was laid.”
(Todd Compton. In Sacred Loneliness pg 212 italics added) This may have been the
early beginnings of a pre-existence forming in Joseph Smith cosmology. His words were similar to some of his other wives. For instance in 1841 Joseph made it known to Zina Diantha Jacobs (Huntington Young) that the Lord, “had made it known to him that Zina was to be his wife.” (Ibid. pg 80 italics added)

Perhaps these and other 19th century marriages helped plant the idea in the Mormon psyche that people met and fell
in love in heaven, promising to marry once on earth, foreordained if you will.

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Holy Week

The dark of night lies everywhere.
So young the night around,
We see how vast with stars the sky,
Each star as radiant as day.
And if the earth could have its way,
It would sleep on– through Easter Day—
Lulled by the reading of the psalms.

The dark of night lies everywhere.
So young the night, the square seems like
Eternity form end to end
Where still a thousand years must wait
The dawn of day and light. [Read more…]

Friday Night I-have-nothing-better-to-do-than-this Poll

Check all that apply.

What is Religious Persecution?

During the Reformation, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was chained together with the Bible in protestant churches. One of the tenets of Christianity has long been that believers are persecuted. Persecution somehow proves one is righteous.  Today some churches still use stories from the martyrs in sermons, and Christian media outlets run news updates about the persecution of Christians worldwide.

I think we can agree that we, as Mormons, sometimes display a persecution complex. Like sects that cling to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, we routinely use Our Heritage and stories from our history to illustrate times of persecution and the sacrifices made in behalf of our faith. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it is our history. One of the things it does for good and bad, is tie us together in the common cause of defending our faith against persecutors. But some members of the Church are always on the defense, with arrows aimed for any slight against Mormonism, firing often when no shot was fired at them.

The Book of Mormon Musical has been heralded by some as good publicity for us (which I believe in the end it will be); while in contrast, seen by others as a gross misrepresentation of our faith as a whole. Is making fun of us okay if it’s good for us in the end?  Does it set a bad precedent in a cultural landscape where religious tolerance is supposed to be the rule? Is mockery an expression of intolerance, and is intolerance synonymous with persecution? When should we ignore, or even laugh along at ourselves, and when should we take a stand?

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