On second thought, never mind

Over the weekend I wrote a post responding to the court decision to overturn Prop. 8. It was very cathartic for me. I took everything that I’d ever thought or tried to write about same-sex marriage and distilled it to its essence, which was 1,841 words–long for a blog post, but most of my blog posts are (too) long, and when you consider the tens of thousands of words I had to work with, I’d call it a pretty awesome distillation. Of course, you will just have to take my word for it because once I had finished writing, I knew that I wouldn’t publish it. [Read more…]

Good, bad and so-bad-they’re-awesome gospel analogies

Several years ago I had the pleasure of listening to a sacrament meeting talk given by a woman who happened to work for an opthamologist. In her address she described various diseases of the eye and likened them unto various “spiritual diseases” that can afflict an individual. For example, glaucoma damages the optic nerve and gradually leads to an irreversible loss of vision; the loss is so gradual that it often isn’t perceived until the disease is in its advanced stages. Similarly, insidious influences can gradually damage our spiritual perceptions, and before we know it we have purchased a non-refundable, one-way ticket to hell. [Read more…]

Petitionary prayer: the monkey’s paw of my faith

This morning was trash day in our neighborhood. Trash day is an important day in our household because my seven-year-old son is obsessed with garbage trucks. Actually, “obsessed” is putting it mildly, but suffice it to say that he gets up early every Wednesday so he can see the garbage truck come down our street and watch it empty the trash cans into its hopper. Sometimes he gets up at 3 a.m. just to be sure he doesn’t miss it, but that’s really beside the point. Today was trash day, and although my son woke up on time, the garbage truck was late.

Unfortunately, school is still in session here, and my son has to go to school regardless of whether or not he has seen the garbage truck yet. This is easier said than done, of course. If my son hasn’t had his Wednesday morning garbage truck fix, he does not want to get on the school bus, and he will invoke the nuclear option. I had a lot of work to do this morning, including getting two of my other kids to their respective schools, so I was pretty stressed out and really didn’t want to manage an autistic seven-year-old who’d been deprived of his garbage truck, so as the clock ticked ever nearer the scheduled bus-arrival time and the garbage truck still hadn’t shown, I became ever more nervous. I really, really needed that garbage truck to get here fast. I didn’t know what I’d do if it didn’t. [Read more…]

Magnifying your calling, and other acts of hubris

Last week I was visiting teaching (mostly because it was the end of the month and I had to), and over the course of the visit with this sister I’ve known for six years, I learned that she is unhappy with her life right now. On previous visits she has always been cheerful, positive and easy-going, but on this particular day she wound up confessing, with some tears, that she did not feel at home in this ward, didn’t feel that she fit in with the other women, didn’t feel that she had any place in our community. I was surprised at her revelation, but I can’t say it shocked me, because while I like my ward and think it is filled with good people, I can easily see how one could feel excluded (and in some cases, even be so). I have felt out of place myself at times–I don’t relate well to the other women in my ward, lovely as they are, and I don’t have any close friends at church–but I’ve always considered that a personal problem. I still do think it’s a personal problem; I just didn’t realize anyone else shared it. [Read more…]

Brainwashing for Jesus

I’ve been catching up on General Conference, since I was unable to experience the April broadcast. The other day I was listening to President Eyring’s talk, “Help Them on Their Way Home,” and a particular line caught my attention: “[T]he family has the opportunity at the start of a child’s life to put feet firmly on the path home.” [Read more…]

Keep your talk show off my church

Once upon a time the name “Glenn Beck” didn’t mean anything to me. Despite the fact that I am both a Mormon and a political conservative, I have historically had a hard time remembering who exactly Glenn Beck was. Sometimes I would remember that he was a political commentator but not that he was a Mormon, and sometimes I would remember that he was a Mormon but not what he was famous for. This is probably because Glenn Beck is a television personality, and I don’t watch television. I don’t say that in some snobby way like, “Oh, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of cable just so I could watch Antiques Roadshow and the occasional History channel program.” No, it’s because I find enough on the internets to amuse and debase myself with, so watching television would be a little gratuitous, wouldn’t it? So I have never watched Glenn Beck’s program. But since joining By Common Consent and thereby becoming a fully engaged member of the Mormon blogging community, I have been reminded on a regular basis that a) Glenn Beck is a right-wing nutjob and b) he’s a Mormon, and that’s just embarrassing. And now I can no longer forget who he is. Thanks a lot, Mormon blogosphere! [Read more…]

It’s good (except for one part)

Because I have grounded my ill-mannered eleven-year-old from her Primary class for the time being, she spends the second hour of church hanging out with me in the library, often reading old issues of the Friend and the New Era. I haven’t decided if she’s doing it primarily for entertainment or to look for further evidence that the Church is stupid, but in any case, it keeps her off the streets.

So last Sunday she found something in an old issue of the New Era that disturbed her. (And by “disturbed her,” I mean “caused her to yell out something controversial in front of the chalk-and-eraser-borrowing multitude.”) It was an article by a general authority about marriage and dating, and tucked into a section on not having pre-marital sex was a paragraph about two controversial topics that I won’t name here because they are contentious issues and irrelevant to my larger point. Suffice it to say that my daughter disagreed vehemently with one particular sentence that the author had written, and when I read the sentence and its surrounding context myself, I discovered that I also disagreed with it–I daresay even vehemently, if you want to get technical about it–and I told her so. [Read more…]

“Not lucky, blessed”

Occasionally I will be talking to someone about some fortunate circumstance of my and/or my family’s life, and I will say something like, “We’ve been lucky,” and the person I’m talking to will gently correct me and say, “Not lucky–blessed.” Well, yes, fine, if you prefer: “blessed”–but lucky to have been blessed in this particular way. Surely there are others out there, no better or worse than we, who have not been “blessed” quite as we have. [Read more…]

7 Habits of Highly Effective Stealth-Mormons

So I was just about to swear off any resolutions for 2010 when I read this story about radio host Delilah pulling her kids out of Crosspoint Academy because the school adopted a book by Stephen Covey as part of its curriculum. [Read more…]

Virtue, revisited

At the beginning of 2009 I published my most inflammatory post ever–the one about the church announcing the addition of an eighth value to the Young Women Personal Progress program, Virtue. I took the press release, which invited parents and leaders “to teach the doctrine of chastity and moral purity to help each young woman to be virtuous,” as an indication that the church and the Young Women program particularly were aiming to put a special emphasis on chastity. [Read more…]

Let this desire work in you

I enjoy singing the hymns in church because it makes me feel like I’ve participated in the service, even though I end up ignoring most of it because I’m focused on keeping my children from disturbing everyone else’s worship experience, or else I’m so focused on ignoring the children’s disturbing behavior that I effectively ignore everything that is part of reality during those 70 minutes we are in the chapel. But I pay attention long enough to sing the hymns. I like church in December because we sing Christmas songs. Tonight I am remembering a sacrament meeting early in December 2008 when the opening hymn was “Away in a Manger.” [Read more…]

Christmas in the old and new world

I don’t do much business with Deseret Book, but I enjoy getting their catalogs so I can see all the crazy crap they’re selling and make fun of it. But I especially enjoy getting their Fall/Winter catalog so I can see all the nativities that they sell because they do sell some cool nativities. I don’t buy any of these nativities because they are too nice to live in my house. But I enjoy looking at the nativities nonetheless. [Read more…]

What do you do when your child misbehaves in church?

Some BCC chums and I had a disagreement over this recently sidebarred article, “To Spank or Not To Spank.” And by “disagreement” I mean that we had different interpretations of what the author said versus what she meant to say and blah blah blah–it’s really not that important, despite the number of words I personally devoted to the conversation (which eventually ended in fisticuffs, not that anyone asked), but on reflection I realized that I was reading the article through my own parenting-experience-colored glasses.

I presume that many people read this article’s anecdote about the church nursery worker who spanked a child in her class and thought, “Dude, if someone did that to my kid–HELL to the NO.” I read the anecdote and wondered how the issue was going to be resolved, and when it wasn’t, I felt cheated–because I am the parent of the child who, to old-skool disciplinarians’ minds, could certainly do with a swat on the behind (or two). In fact, considering my daughter’s behavior in church, I would be astonished if several people in my ward did not think this on a regular basis. [Read more…]

Each life that touches ours (or not)

Last week in Relief Society we were talking about callings, and one of the sisters said she didn’t think all callings were necessarily inspired, that sometimes you were just a worker in the kingdom, and that was okay. Another sister disagreed, insisting that all callings were inspired, and she knew this was so because each of her callings had allowed her to touch at least one person’s life, and if you’ve touched one person’s life, that’s all that matters.

I am more inclined to agree with Sister Workerbee than Sister Inspiration. I’m happy for Sister Inspiration, and I believe she’s touched someone’s life in each of her callings, but I don’t think one can make generalizations based on her own blessed but limited experience. I am open to the idea that every calling is inspired, for whatever reason, but I don’t really care one way or the other because if you aren’t touching someone’s life–or don’t know that you’re touching someone’s life–you need some motivation to keep going, and “this calling was inspired” is not always going to cut the mustard, especially if all evidence points to the contrary. [Read more…]


I was listening to a talk show and the host, who is Jewish, was telling about his experience sitting shiva for his recently departed mother. It was the first time he’d ever sat shiva, and he didn’t know if he would like it or not, but it turned out to be a positive experience for him–just sitting and waiting, waiting for people to come and bring his family food, sitting and talking about his mother, whom everyone loved. He expressed his gratitude for the Jewish law that required him to do this, for the wisdom of his ancient religion.

My mother died on a Sunday morning, almost thirteen years ago. On Monday morning my alarm clock went off. I could hear a fierce wind storm going on outside, and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. “My mother just died,” I thought. “I shouldn’t have to go to work, right?” So I called my editor and left a message on her voice mail: “My mother died. I won’t be in today.” Then I went back to sleep. [Read more…]

What I got out of the Relief Society broadcast

Unlike some people I know, I always attend the General Relief Society broadcast–willingly and gladly. But not for any righteous purpose. I just like getting out of the house all by myself. I get out of the house by myself on a fairly regular basis, but due to their tangential religious connection(s), Relief Society meetings are like Get Out of the House Free cards. Not using them just seems like such a waste. Especially with the annual broadcast, which is held in a darkened room, I figure that if nothing else, I could always get a good nap in (if I were so inclined). [Read more…]

P.S. What are you wearing?

So the other day I tossed off this post about teaching our girls (okay, “our children, especially daughters”) the importance of modest dress, and then I promptly went off to play with my three-year-old (who was respectably clad in an oversize t-shirt and long pants) and subsequently spent the rest of the day de-cluttering and reorganizing the toy room. I didn’t re-visit the post until late that afternoon, when I was not remotely surprised to learn that aforementioned post had generated more feedback than usual. More than usual for me, I mean. Most of what I post doesn’t provoke much of a response. When I post on a topic like modesty, however, it is guaranteed that the same arguments will get trotted out and re-hashed ad nauseum in the comments section. At first I felt a little guilty for writing something so predictably inflammatory and then abandoning the thread to pursue my own selfish interests, but as I read what everyone had to say, the guilt completely dissipated and I felt that, if anything, I had served the greater good by letting nature take its course and thus prove my satirical point more effectively than I ever could have, had I taken the time to formulate thoughtful responses to everyone’s arguments. [Read more…]

Teaching modesty to our youth: ur doin it rong

Silvia H. Allred, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, had an article on modesty in the July 2009 issue of the Ensign. In the sidebar, “Teaching Modesty to Our Children,” Sister Allred wrote the following:

Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.

[Read more…]

Counting my blessings

My mother died of breast cancer twelve years ago, and I was due for my baseline mammogram about three years ago, but circumstances and laziness conspired against me, and it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I finally dusted off the old referral card and made the appointment. Based on the results of that mammogram, I had to go in for a follow-up ultrasound on Tuesday, which happened to be my mother’s birthday, which I would call ironic if I didn’t have such a firm grasp on the actual definition of irony, so instead I’ll just call it a coincidence ripe with literary possibility. [Read more…]

My non-descript and utterly predictable patriarchal blessing

I’ve heard a lot of people get up in sacrament meeting and say it was no accident that they were asked to give a talk on a particular topic because that topic was one that they had always struggled with or had been struggling with recently.  I haven’t been asked to speak in sacrament meeting since I moved into my current ward.  Incidentally, I moved into my current ward a little more than five years ago.  My husband has spoken in this ward a couple of times, but I haven’t, and since they no longer have husbands and wives do tag-team sacrament meeting talks, I think that as long as we stay here, I am safe from ever having to give a talk again.  We live in a very large ward, where people are always moving in and seldom moving out, so there are always plenty of people to talk in sacrament meeting without having to ask old Rebecca J to dust off her scriptures and wing it for ten minutes. [Read more…]

My own ugly slash beautiful truth about Girls Camp

So I took my oldest child to Girls Camp yesterday for Valiants Day.  She was not that keen on going because she didn’t think she would like it.  I was not that keen on taking her because I knew that I wouldn’t like it (but I did suspect that she might, at least a little bit, once she got into it).  [Read more…]

When I die

Recently I got an e-mail from a friend informing me that the bishop of our old singles ward had passed away.  Being a thousand miles away, I was unable to attend his funeral, but I wish that I could have.  This man was very dear to me.

It just happens that I was thinking of him a few days before receiving this news.  I don’t remember why.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time. [Read more…]

Draw your own spiritual analogy

You know that classic Primary song “Popcorn Popping”?  It goes like this:

I looked out the window and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.

Only if you live in a place where they don’t grow apricot trees, you might say the popcorn grows on some other kind of tree–a dogwood tree, for example.  I believe that when I was living and serving in a Primary in Virginia, the kids might have sung about popcorn on the dogwood tree.  I don’t remember for sure, but that’s neither here nor there. [Read more…]

Dude, where’s my pew?

Recently I had the opportunity to volunteer for an outreach program for homeless youth, or more accurately, youth with housing insecurity.  Most of them are not homeless per se, but their family circumstances are such that they can’t live at home and have to move from friend’s couch to friend’s couch, or something like that.  The program is sponsored by a local United Church of Christ.  [Read more…]

Virtue, Part Two

Part Two has had to undergo a major overhaul because since posting Part One I have had the opportunity for reflection and come to regret its censoriousness. Upon reading this special issue of the Church News (dated December 27, 2008—about a month after the First Presidency letter announcing the change in the Young Women theme), I feel like I can accept the purity of intentions behind the Young Women value known as “Virtue.” The article cites a 2003 address by James E. Faust, given at the General Young Women Conference, “The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God.” In the talk, President Faust discussed ten virtues all young women should aspire to: faith, honesty, chastity, humility, self-discipline, fairness, moderation, cleanliness, courage, and grace. These ten virtues are now ten aspects of the Young Women super-value Virtue.

I concede that “Virtue” is a much better name for a value than “Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” though not quite as catchy as “All-Around Awesomeness.” I would like to see a group of young ladies getting up in church each week and reciting the list of “Young Women values, which are Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Awesomeness.” That would be thrilling for at least a few weeks. [Read more…]

Virtue, Part One-Point-Seven-Five: Salad still unmade

Okay, thanks to super-commenter Matt W., whose link I have finally followed, I now have a more detailed explanation for what Virtue is in the YW context. And I can take back most of what I said before. Clearly it means more than just chastity. It also means “Miscellaneous.”

I don’t even need to write Part 2 now! Thanks, Matt!

Virtue, Part One & a Half: I’m busy today and don’t have a lot of time

However… [Read more…]

Virtue, Part One: More modesty, please

Depending on your personal circumstances and inclination to pay attention to stuff that goes on at church, you may or may not be aware that for the last twenty years the Young Women’s program has revolved around seven “Young Women values”: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity. Each value has a corresponding color. Faith is white, Divine Nature is…blue…I think. I’m pretty sure Choice & Accountability is orange. I don’t know, I was on my way out of Young Women when they came up with this stuff, so I never really got around to mastering it. [Read more…]

Are Mormons Christians? Are Post Toasties corn flakes?

Years ago the following quiz used to run in Writer’s Digest:

Which of these is wrong?

1. Eating raw chicken.
2. Dating your sister.
3. “Rollerblading.”
4. All of the above.
[Read more…]

James Dobson is my homeboy

Between the Republican primary and Proposition 8, 2008 afforded us a lot of opportunities to ponder the wisdom of us Mormon folk joining forces with conservative evangelical Christians. “Broad faith coalitions” are all well and good, but do we really want to be getting in bed (so to speak) with people who think we’re going to hell? Shouldn’t that give us just a teensy bit of pause? [Read more…]