Friendship in the Time of Corona

Like many other self-pitying Americans reaching for comfort in a time of uncertainty, I recently started rewatching Schitt’s Creek. There’s a lot to love about the show, but what stands out to me this go-around are the gatherings: impromptu parties in Mutt’s barn, Roland and Jocelyn’s backyard Hawaiian-themed hog roast, Jazzagals choir rehearsals, game nights with friends, friends in general… you can probably see where I’m going with this. I miss people, and it feels equal parts heartbreaking and scandalous to watch characters on-screen congregating with reckless abandon while I’m on my (checks watch) ninth month of social distancing. To be fair, I have a handful of friends I’ve seen a handful of times—outside, masked, distanced—but it’s hard without the hugs. It’s hard not to invite anyone into my home, which I work so hard to make the kind of place other people want to be.

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What Does Pioneer Day Mean in 2020?


Back when I lived in Utah, I found it obnoxious when other out-of-staters would dismiss Pioneer Day out of hand as uncool and irrelevant (as most Utah things are, according to most other Americans). As a student of culture, the idea of belittling a tradition like Pioneer Day for easy “cool points” seemed unproductive and counter to my training to take history and community seriously. However, this doesn’t remove the need for critique and engagement, especially with one’s own cultural inheritance. For anyone who wasn’t on this train before, 2020 has given us a host of opportunities to critically engage with the act of memorializing: who gets remembered and celebrated? Whose stories are left untold? What political consequences do these choices have?

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Some Reflections on Mormon Journal-Keeping


This is Part 1 of a two-part series on journaling. Part 1 is a reflection on the changing role of journaling in Mormonism and my own experience finding my purpose and voice as a young journal-keeper. I end by asking: Do Mormons journal anymore? Part 2 will take up what it means to journal through the pandemic, with some practical suggestions and resources for starting or reinvigorating a journaling practice.

Early on during my own quarantine experience, about mid-March, I began to feel strongly that I’ll regret it if I don’t keep a record of how my life feels at this historic juncture. As difficult as it is to imagine, someday this pandemic will be behind us, a part of the past—even the distant past—and it won’t be as easy to summon the details of our thoughts and experiences as we may now assume. No matter how singular or memorable a moment feels, sooner or later it will recede with the tides of time and be difficult to retrieve without somehow preserving the memory.

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When Should We Reopen Church?


Among my ongoing quarantine hobbies is one I’m sure many of you share: obsessively reading articles and listening to podcasts about the pandemic, the public response to stay-at-home orders around the U.S., and debates over what the new normal will look like—and when it will come. I’ve seen lots of well-meaning comments on social media imploring people to observe social distancing strictly for the few weeks it’s being asked of us so we can get back to regular life in time for summer. I wholeheartedly agree that we should all be doing our part by staying home and flattening the curve, but this sense of the timeline is woefully optimistic. Most experts seem to agree that there is no way this will only be a few weeks, and even strict adherence to stay-at-home orders won’t magically hasten the return to anything most Americans would deem normal.

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The LeBarons and the Making of the All-American Mormons


By now you’ve probably seen the news. On Monday, November 4, nine members of the LeBaron family were shot, burned, and killed in a violent ambush in the Mexican state of Sonora as they were driving in a three-car convoy to visit extended family. The entire group was made up of women and children, including two eight-month-old twins who died in a burning car with their mother. Five of the surviving children managed to escape and walk fourteen miles to get help.

The story made national news in the U.S., and headlines like this started cropping up: “Mormon Family Massacre Stuns Mexico, Laying Bare Government’s Helplessness” (New York Times), “What we know about the attack on a group of Mormon families in Mexico” (CNN), “Mexico ambush: How a US Mormon family ended up dead” (BBC), “The murders of 9 Mormon family members spotlights Mexico’s spiraling violence” (Vox), “The Brutal Murder of the Mormon Family in Mexico Was Almost Inevitable” (Slate). The list goes on. [Read more…]