To Mourn with Gay Friends that Mourn

When Alma baptizes at the waters of Mormon in Mosiah 18, he preaches to these covenant-makers exactly what they will be promising to each other as a community. In his instructions, Alma says that in order to “come into the fold of God” and “be called his people,” they must also be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light, “to mourn with those that mourn,” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We love to share these scriptures in Sunday School, particularly when we are aware of fellow ward members suffering from a death in the family, from sickness or unemployment, or if we have a family that needs help moving into or out of a home. One of the things I most love and value about my LDS church family is how we are there for one another.

I have noticed, though, that it is harder for us to be there for the LGBTQ members of our congregations, who are many of them hurting and not understanding what their life inside in the Church should look like. [Read more…]

BYU-Idaho Faculty Conference Keynote

Here are the remarks I had the opportunity to give this morning at the fall faculty conference here at Brigham Young University-Idaho. The presentation is titled, “We Were Voyagers: Embracing Our Latter-day Saint Pioneer Legacy as Educators.”

In the film Moana—which, if you have young kids, you have probably watched ad nauseum this summer, like I have—the eponymous heroine is a young woman preparing to someday lead her people. Moana and her village are islanders, and the island provides everything they need to sustain and fulfil their lives: fish, coconuts, water, culture. There is one rule on the island that Moana’s father underscores repeatedly: “No one goes beyond the reef,” or, in other words, don’t swim or fish too far from shore, because the waters are dangerous, unfamiliar, and risky beyond the reef.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 12.06.49 PM.png [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #12: Mary Larsen (the 11th—and final—wife)

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Sidsie Marie “Mary” Larsen Gardner (1850–1921)

Part 12 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

To commemorate Pioneer Day this year, I am returning to the Sister Wives Series I began to commemorate Pioneer Day last year. Today I am writing about Archibald Gardner’s 11th and final wife, Mary Larsen from Denmark, who married 55-year-old Archibald Gardner when she was 19 years old and would have 8 children with him. Archie was possibly her second husband. [Read more…]

Ponder on the Beauty of an Earth Made Clean Again

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Michigan Republican Representative Tim Walberg said in a town hall meeting last Friday, “I believe there’s climate change . . . I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I believe there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No. . . . Why do I believe that? Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.” This is a sentiment I have heard countless times from members of my wards throughout my life. As a newly returned missionary, even I told my non-religious sister who expressed anxiety about climate change that, “I have faith that God is in charge and that during Christ’s Second Coming, He will heal the earth and make things right.” She frankly and rightly responded: “That is the most despicable thing I have ever heard you say.” [Read more…]

Intimidated by Immortality; Or, a Mormon Girl’s Fear of Eternity

And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. —Moses 6:67

 Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation . . . . —Abraham 2:16

16500feetmilkywaykc2_brunier.jpgI didn’t realize that apeirophobia had a name until my husband forwarded this Atlantic video my way last month, with the comment, “This seems important.” [Read more…]

This is Not Us

“The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“The Department of Homeland Security said that the order also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States. In a briefing for reporters, White House officials said that green card holders from the seven affected countries who are outside the United States would need a case-by-case waiver to return.” — New York Times

[Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #11: Elizabeth Dowding (the 10th wife)

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Elizabeth “Betsey” Dowding Gardner Hall (1851–1921)

Part 11 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

I had to take a break during my Sister Wives Series (a.k.a. my coming-to-grips-with-an-uncomfortable-polygamous-family-history series) in order to teach a fall semester, celebrate my kids’ birthdays, sew some Halloween costumes, survive an American election, eat a turkey, etc. But perhaps these excuses are just poor attempts to hide the greater struggle I have had writing about Elizabeth Dowding, another of Archie’s 15-year-old brides, a woman whose biographical details I have struggled to pin down. Even as I prepare this short bio to post on BCC, I feel that it is incomplete. I don’t feel like I am done searching for Betsey Dowding yet. But here is what I have found out so far. [Read more…]

Second Advent Sunday: Prophecy of New Hearts

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Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, a day that recognizes the importance of God’s voice on earth, through prophecy and scripture. It is a Sunday that follows the first advent Sunday’s focus of hope in Christ.

As I seek to prepare my heart for this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a truly cruddy year 2016 has been, for a plethora of reasons (although Slate reminds me that 2016 actually hasn’t been nearly as bad as 1348, 1836, or 1919, so I should count my blessings), and I find 2017 approaching me simultaneously with the promise of a fresh slate and the dread of looming 2016 aftermath. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #10: Harriet Armitage (the 9th wife)

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This photo is frequently attributed as Harriet Armitage Larter Gardner Larter (1830–1866), however, there is some dispute that this may actually be a photo of Phoebe Marie Curtis Neach Larter (1852–1949). 

Part 10 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

 

This was a tricky narrative to scrap together (and consequently has taken a bit longer to write than others in this series). There isn’t much I could find on Harriet herself, and even this picture is only maybe a picture of her (some have argued that this is a picture of her first/third husband’s second wife, Phoebe—I’ll explain in a minute). In researching and writing this, it felt a bit like I was dancing and skipping all around but not quite exactly on Harriet’s own story. She is like a skip on an old record; I can almost hear her, but every time I get close the needle jumps and I’m hearing someone else’s story near her.

In the same week of June 1857 (and, according to some records, even the same day) that Archibald married his 15-year-old 8th wife, Sarah Jane, he also married his 9th wife, 27-year-old Harriet Armitage [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #9: Sarah Jane Hamilton (the 8th wife)

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Sarah Jane Hamilton Gardner Howard (1842–1924)

Part 9 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

The year after Archie was married to 34-year-old Norwegian Serena, Archie was married and sealed to his youngest—and, at six feet, his tallest—wife yet: his 8th wife, Sarah Jane Hamilton. Sarah Jane married Archibald just ten days after her 15th birthday. She was the youngest of Archie’s wives by nearly a decade, and she was a full 24 years younger than his first wife, Margaret (my g-g-g-grandmother). Two years into this marriage, Sarah Jane would give birth to a boy, James Hamilton Gardner. This would be the only child she and Archie would have together, as Sarah Jane would leave Archibald soon afterward, followed by a divorce. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #8: Serena Torjusdatter Evensen (the 7th wife)

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Tarjer Serine “Serena” Torjusdatter Evensen Gardner (1822–1911)

Part 8 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

“Let us think with pride of our pioneer dead
And follow the exemplary lives they led.”
—Annie Gardner Francis (Serena’s youngest child)

Archibald’s 7th wife, Terjer Serine Torjusdatter Evensen, was born in Risør, Norway, an untamed land surrounded by lakes and hills, fjords and fens, wrapped round with a coastline that had already been an important fishing and shipping port for hundreds of years. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #7: Jane Park (the 6th wife)

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Jane Park Gardner (1834–1916)

Part 7 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Five months after marrying the schoolteacher Laura Althea, 38-year-old Archibald courted and married his sixth wife, 18-year-old Jane Park, for time and all eternity on August 24, 1852. Jane had known Archie since she was a girl; she was born in Kent County, Canada (like Archie’s first children), and her family had joined the LDS Church there. The Park family was in the same company of Saints as the Gardners when they left Canada for Winter Quarters. Jane’s family, however, stayed in Missouri for a few more years to earn money for the trek west and did not reach the Salt Lake Valley until 1850, three years after Archibald and Margaret had helped to settle Mill Creek, Utah. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #6: Laura Althea (the 5th wife)

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Laura Althea Thompson Gardner (1834–1899)

Part 6 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Laura Althea was 17 years old when she married 37-year-old Archibald Gardner as his fifth wife on March 3, 1852. By this time, Archibald’s first wife, Margaret, was 34-years-old with 5 living children, her youngest about a month old. Abigail, the second wife, was 38 years old with seven living children. Abigail’s daughter and Archie’s third wife, Mary Ann, was 20 years old with two children in the three years since her marriage (her baby William would die before the end of the year, however). Big Liz, Archie’s fourth wife, was 19 years old, and had been married to Archibald less than a year when he married Laura Althea. Althea met Archibald in Cottonwood, Utah, where she was the schoolteacher for some of his children, working from a one-room log house in Mill Creek. Later, Althea would teach English to Archie’s seventh wife, a Norwegian named Terjer Serine (or “Serena”). [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #5: Elizabeth Elinor Lewis (the 4th wife)

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Elizabeth Elinor “Big Liz” Lewis Raglin Gardner (1832–1879?)

Part 5 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Some men have got a dozen wives and others have a score
And the man that’s got but one wife is a-lookin’ out for more,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Now young men don’t get discouraged, get married if you can
But take care don’t get a woman that belongs to another man,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Songs of Mormon Pioneers, p. 4

Family narratives have unfortunately not been very kind to Archibald Gardner’s 4th wife, the mysterious singer known for her striking good looks that everybody called “Big Liz.” [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #4: Mary Ann Bradford (the 3rd wife)

Part 4 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Mary Ann Bradford Gardner (1831–1864)

Mary Ann was 17 years old when she and her 35-year-old mother both married 34-year-old Archibald Gardner as his second and third wives.

She was 32 years old when she died after giving birth to her 9th child. She is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery and shares a headstone with her infant daughter, who also died that day, Abigail Jane.[1]

[Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #3: Abigail Sprague (the 2nd wife)

Part 3 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Abigail Sprague Bradford Gardner (1813–1879)

Abigail was a tough, stout, and gregarious pioneer woman. She had a sense of humor even in the wake of great tragedies. She wasn’t known as the most beautiful of Archie’s wives, but she also doesn’t seem to have been the type of woman who would have cared about looks. At one point she was heavy enough that she would handily keep her thimble and spool of thread in her fat rolls, where they would stay put until she needed them (I find this detail amazing and delightful). She found great pleasure in smoking her corncob pipe as well as in telling delicious and terrible stories to children about witches and fairies. She had tremendous respect for Native Americans and learned their languages. She made friends with Indians and served them, eventually adopting a young Indian girl who had been stolen from her home by a warring tribe and sold to Abigail’s brother for a pony. Abigail treated Fanny like her own daughter, and Archibald seems to have welcomed her into his fold without complaint.[1] Abigail could frequently be found smoking peace pipes in Native American circles, doing her part to build bridges between the two cultures and counteract much of the fear and suspicion harbored on both sides. [Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants #2: Margaret Livingston (the 1st wife)

Part 2 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Margaret Livingston Gardner (1818–1893)

My great-great-great grandmother Margaret was born October 12, 1818, in Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, a small maritime village on the western coast of the Scottish highlands near the Forest of Achnabreck, nestled between the Firth of Clyde and Loch Craignish, with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond that. Margaret’s family immigrated to Canada when she was only two, so I’m not sure she ever remembered much of the dark waters and wild heathered moors that had been her birthplace. [Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants: Confronting My Polygamous Ancestry

Part 1 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

“Genealogy, I am doing it, my genealogy! And I don’t know why I am doing it—it’s terrifying me!” So sang my young adult self, as a joke, to some college roommates during a Sunday School Family History course after realizing that my great-great-grandparents were also first cousins (double-first-cousins, actually, since their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters). It turns out that genealogy work doesn’t always give one warm fuzzies. And, literal kissing cousins aside, the real deep-seated anxiety I have always had with my family history concerns my great-great-great grandfather and his eleven plural wives. [Read more…]

Elder Duncan’s Empathy Ointment #ldsconf

Elder Kevin R. Duncan’s conference address was a highlight of the Saturday morning conference for me. Opening with a metaphor about a painful splinter he carried in his hand for years, he was finally rid of it when he took the time to daily apply ointment that softened the skin enough for the bit of wood to work its way out. His hand is no longer sore, and the splinter left no mark—just the lesson that there was no need to have carried that pain with him for so long. [Read more…]

Grateful about a Mystery I do not Understand

mary_resurected_lordWhat began as a Mormon Lectionary installment for Easter Sunday turned into an Easter sacrament meeting talk after I was invited to speak in church today. I hope readers will forgive the format of this lectionary post—this is a transcript of the talk I gave in church this morning.

Brian Doyle, a favorite essayist and poet of mine whose Catholic testimony has strengthened my Mormon one countless times over, recorded in an essay this thought about Christ’s atonement:

“The truest words I ever heard about divine love were uttered once by a friend as a grace before a meal. He bowed his head in the guttering candlelight, steam rising from the food before him, the fingers of the cedar outside brushing the window, and said, ‘We are part of a Mystery we do not understand, and we are grateful’” (Brian Doyle, “Joey’s Doll’s Other Arm,” Leaping, 2003, p. 20)

This is how I, too, feel today: grateful about a mystery I do not understand. [Read more…]

Mothering Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent)

We are over halfway through the season of Lent, and today, Mothering Sunday, is named after a 16th-century tradition of attending the church you grew up in, the place where you were baptized, or the church your mother attends. “Going a-mothering” meant traveling to your home church, the place where you came from.

[Read more…]

Observing the Sabbath on Valentine’s Day (during Lent, no less)

stvalentineI remember being put out as a kid whenever a holiday landed on a Sunday, be it Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or anything except Easter, I suppose, which will always be a Sunday holiday. My understanding of Sunday holidays was basically that all the fun stuff we would be doing if the holiday landed on a weekday was replaced with, well, church, and nothing else. [Read more…]

Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

“Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.” —Pope Francis

“Rejoice in the power you have within you from Christ to be a nucleus of love, forgiveness, and compassion.” —Chieko N. Okazaki

Gaudete002-1015x1024The third Sunday of Advent is a day of joy and celebration, gaudete being Latin for “rejoice.” On this Sunday, the typical penitence that accompanies Advent observation gives way to allow for exultant gladness and hope in resurrection and redemption; it is a day of elation and jubilation.  [Read more…]

The Worth of Sparrows

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“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

—Luke 12:6–7

[Read more…]

Another Faithful Perspective

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

Looking for My Mother’s Shadow

MI+mother+daughter+love+gettyA common argument about why we don’t speak more about Heavenly Mother or actively seek a relationship with Her is because we just don’t have a lot of documentation about Her. She doesn’t show up in LDS canonized scripture, and we only have secondhand accounts of Joseph Smith teaching of Her existence.

However, the “Mother in Heaven” essay published by the church last week seems to suggest that in spite of our ignorance, Heavenly Mother plays an important role in the mortal lives of both men and women. The essay cites President Harold B. Lee when he argued, “we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us.” Furthermore, the essay quotes Elder Rudger Clawson saying, “We honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal Prototype,” suggesting that we know at least enough about Heavenly Mother to acknowledge Her. [Read more…]

Recovering My Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion

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

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

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